Christmas (Nadelik) was celebrated in Cornwall when it had become unfashionable to do so across the rest of Britain. In fact many of the customs we now think of as Christmas traditions were collected in places like Cornwall in the early 19th Century.
“Nadelik Lowen Ha Bledhen Nowyth Da” – Merry Christmas and Happy New year in Cornish.
Numerous distinctive traditions and practices are associated with this time of year in Cornwall including:
- The Cornish Christmas Bunch
- Cornish church towers being illuminated on Christmas-eve
- Triumphal arches of evergreens and flags were often seen in towns and villages
- Guise-dancing – Participants dressed in gentlemens hand me downs and wearing masks would tour the town enteraining others with music and dance for a full description of the practice of guise dancing. Often led by a “Lord of Misrule” or master of ceremonies.
- Candle Dancing – dancing around a basket full of sand with brightly coloured candles in it
- The Twelfth cake – And the general celebration of 12th night as a feast.
- The lighting and chalking of the Mock or Block. It was a tradition to draw a chalk man on the Christmas or yule log to symbolise the death of the old year and the start of the new. This was a communal activity and is still performed in public during the Montol festival in Penzance.
- The Cornish Christmas Carol – Cornwall has provided a suprisingly large number of Carols known throughout the world. For a full list click here.
- The distinctive tunes of teh regional Cornish Carols such as the St Ives and Padstow carols.
- The distinctive Cornish carol tunes composed by Thomas Merritt.
- The Cornish play of “Saint George and the Turkish Knight and its variants. A variant on the story popularly played out by mummers across the UK with local variants. Full list of Cornish versions of the Christmas play can be found by clicking here.
Some traditional Cornish Carols: