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    25 NOV 2004

Seasonal Evening 2004 poster

A very interesting and entertaining talk was given by Anne Carter, reciting extracts from various poems & books, also sharing tales of Christmas customs. A couple of which follow:


1.   In the West of England, it was thought that a Maiden should adorn her bed with a sprig of holly on Christmas Eve, to ward off visits by mischievous goblins.

2. The custom of kissing under the Mistletoe is English & if a Maiden is not kissed, she will not be married that year.

An extract from a poem by Walter De La Mere was quoted, then a shopping list for a Banquet on Christmas Eve in 1515 at the Chapel at Eltham was read out. This included 2,000 swans, some seals, porpoises & venison (to be served hot & cold), as well as many other items. 200 dishes were used that night. I’m glad I wasn’t a Kitchen Maid that evening!

The UK population have not always enjoyed Christmas. Quotes were read from the Puritan Diarists – Samuel Pepys & John Evelyn. Then some 300 years later from their entries, almost to the day, we were suffering a War. Anne then quoted from some London War Notes in 1940. J B Priestly wrote in ‘The Prince of Pleasure’ – it was the Duchess Regency of York & not the Prince of Wales, that started the custom of giving presents.

Then an extract was read from the poem ‘King John’s Christmas’ by A A Milne, of poor King John who didn’t receive one single card or present. This was recited with great enthusiasm, taking on the voices of all the characters & was most definitely the highlight of the evening.

A story on Christmas Past was recited in an American accent, followed by an extract from ‘A Christmas Carol’ in character voices! Apparently, Christmas was greatly celebrated at Gads Hill by Charles Dickens.

Then Anne switched to a Welsh accent to quote from Dylan Thomas, on children’s recollections in Wales, followed by further quotes including ‘Christmas’ by John Bethachan. Then back into an American accent for ‘The Herdman of the Nativity Play’, which was based in the USA.

The ‘Pantomime’ being a British tradition, is a form of play, where men play women & vice versa. Peter Pan by Robin May (Immortal Pan or Man) – a story that went from Book to Theatre. Parts of this were read too, in characterisation. We then heard about The Scarlet Theatre which worked on a kids play & where the lighting backstage was by candles!

The evening ended with the audience being encouraged to sing along to the following words and to the tune of ‘Three Ships Go Sailing By’:-

We see the days go sailing past,

As Christmas draws nigh,

As Christmas draws nigh,

And everything is ready at last,

To greet Christmas Day in the morning.

And we are all so happy to say,

As Christmas draws nigh,

As Christmas draws nigh,

We hope you’ll have a splendid day

On Chrisimas Day in the morning.

(Note the Chrisimas – this version is correct!)

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