Nadelik Lowen! A look at Cornish Christmas Traditions
Cornwall is packed full of traditions, so it is hardly surprising that the people here have their own take on Christmas too. There are many traditions surrounding Nadelik (Christmas) in Cornwall; some of which have caught on, some of which haven’t. We’re sure lots of people would like to see Falmouth’s Gin & Cake custom spread across the UK: shopkeepers providing their customers with a piece of cake and a glass of gin after they finish their Christmas shopping!
To coincide with the launch of our festive range, here’s a look at some of the ways in which Cornwall celebrates and has influenced Christmas.
The making of the Cornish Bush
Like many Cornish traditions, the Cornish Bush has its roots (sorry) in Pagan celebrations for the winter solstice. Its meanings and symbolisms have been adapted to Christian traditions, and this three-dimensional wreath now represents new life. It is made by weaving holly, mistletoe and ivy around a circle of withy. The beautiful ringlet that is traditionally hung indoors on December the 20th. It’s topped with an apple, and a candle is placed in the middle of the circle. Dancing in rings underneath the Cornish Bush whilst the candle is lit welcomes in the God of Light.
Bringing back Christmas carols
Christmas lost a lot of traditions when Cromwell and his parliament abolished it in 1647. Thankfully we got it back (imagine no Yule Log, trifle, or big tins of chocolates to look forward to once a year!), although thanks to Methodism and the repressed Victorians, a lot of the flair and magic was sapped from the event.
Luckily the Cornish love a sing-song, and in 1822 Davies Gilbert published a book entitled Some Ancient Christmas Carols. A decade later, William Sandys published Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern. The carols were practiced across Cornwall, with carollers meeting in school rooms and chapels throughout the county (sometimes walking for miles to be there). They sang carols both old and new, and slowly their enthusiasm spread throughout the county.
Could you imagine a Christmas without carols?
Christmas Day swim
Whilst many of us are sitting cosily in our front rooms opening presents and eating chocolates, many Cornish seaside communities will gather for a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean!
Quite often hundreds of people will gather together and dive into the freezing waters of the sea, with only a swimming costume or fancy dress outfit, to protect them from the elements. No wetsuits allowed! Often it’s for charity, although sometimes it’s just because people need a chilly shock to refresh them for the day’s festivities!
One of Penzance’s strongest and most interesting traditions is Montol Festival, a celebration of the midwinter solstice on the 21st of December. In the days leading up to it there are plenty of creative activities, including mask-masking, storytelling and Mummers plays. On the eve of Montol itself people dress up in their masks and black clothing to parade the streets. They burn the Mock, also known as the Cornish Yule Log, which features a chalked stick figure representing Old Father Time and the death of the old year. The processions are lit by fire, and are a spectacular and bizarre sight to behold.
We have some special pewter Montol items available to celebrate this festival, simply search Montol on the homepage.