Sunday, 2 December 2012

Scroggling the Holly - invented tradition revisited

Christmas arrives in Haworth
We popped over to Haworth this afternoon to watch "Scroggling the Holly". I don't know whether this is a tradition dating back into the mists of time beyond memory or if it was the brainchild of some people who'd imbibed a little while discussing what Haworth could do for Christmastime.

In essence Scroggling the Holly is a little ceremony to welcome Christmas into Haworth. Like all the best traditions (even invented ones) it combines the church - and one supposes Christianity - with ancient pagan leftovers and a smattering of the modern. In the case of Scroggling the Holly we've Morris dancers providing a sort of sanitised paganism, the familiar pre-christian references to holly and ivy - culminating in turning the Holly Princess into an Ivy Queen! All this plus Father Christmas who joins the festivities from inside the church.

I guess none of this really matters or indeed has any deeper meaning than the symbolism of the season. The holly and ivy are rulers because they are still green in the depths of the coldest winter - a sign of hope in the dark and cold. But that is to apply a greater significance to a little celebration that serves to bring in visitors to the village on a winter weekend, helps bring together the community and provides a little bit of pleasure to a whole host of people. Hundreds who, if asked, would sniff dismissively at Morris dancing are caught smiling as a bunch of bell-bedecked middle aged men bash sticks and wave hankies to the sound of a squeeze box.

Such occasions bring people together, provide an unspoken - perhaps hard to articulate - sense of meaning to a place. And are fun for young and old.

These invented, reinvented or discovered traditions are to be encouraged - scroggling the holly here in Haworth, a scarecrow festival in Cullingworth, rushcarts in Saddleworth, well-dressing in Derbyshire all provide a link to the past, play to the idea of community and provide a justifiable excuse to finish the afternoon with something else that's quintessentially English:

Almost a pint of Timothy Taylor's Golden Best


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