Mak­ing a joy­ous sound on Wait­night

The di­rec­tor of Chiltern Open Air Mu­seum, Sue Shave, writes about some of our Christ­mas tra­di­tions and how they orig­i­nated

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - PEOPLE AND PLACES -


SCHRIST­MAS starts to dom­i­nate our cal­en­dar, have you ever won­dered how the tra­di­tions all started? Do you know why carol singers go house to house, for in­stance, or where the ex­pres­sion ‘eat­ing hum­ble pie’ comes from?

Chiltern Open Air Mu­seum’s his­toric build­ings pro­vide a back­drop to the story of past tra­di­tions and how they came about.

Carol ser­vices may well have been con­ducted in the Vic­to­rian Mis­sion Room from Henton, a tin chapel or pre­fab­ri­cated build­ing. This iconic ex­hibit is ac­tu­ally made from cor­ru­gated iron pan­els not tin and a vis­it­ing pas­tor held monthly ser­vices there.

Car­ols have been sung for thou­sands of years with begin­nings in pa­gan mu­sic – the word ‘carol’ means praise or cel­e­bra­tion. In the me­dieval pe­riod, car­ols were used as part of Christian church ser­vices and later trans­lated into ver­nac­u­lar lan­guage so that peo­ple could un­der­stand them. Car­ols were only sung in pub­lic then by the lo­cal dig­ni­taries with the au­thor­ity to take money from peo­ple. This was done solely on Christ­mas Eve or Wait­night, re­fer­ring to the shep­herds watch­ing over their sheep.

How­ever, the mixed rep­u­ta­tion of carol singers to­day is also re­flected in the past, as many were thrown out of churches for dis­rupt­ing the ser­vices, as they took their carolling lit­er­ally, singing and danc­ing in cir­cles!

Later, dur­ing Vic­to­rian times, pub­lic singing of car­ols and carol ser­vices be­came very popular and many new car­ols were com­posed, such as Silent Night and Good King Wences­las.

Most peo­ple have heard of the ex­pres­sion ‘to eat hum­ble pie’, used when some­one is hu­mil­i­ated or is forced to make a pub­lic apol­ogy.

Hum­ble pie was in fact a pie, made us­ing the in­nards or ‘pluck’ of a game an­i­mal such as deer, in­clud­ing heart, liver, tongue, feet, ears and brains – called the um­bles. It is thought that this food was eaten by the lower classes but there is lit­tle ev­i­dence of this. Some his­toric com­men­ta­tors re­fer to ex­cel­lent meals in their jour­nals, such as Sa­muel Pepys in his di­ary of 1662: “Hav­ing some veni­son given me…

had the shoul­der roasted and the um­bles baked in a pie.”

So this year, please will you con­sider leav­ing your ‘um­bles’ to the

Imu­seum and mak­ing a do­na­tion of £50 to help us keep his­tory alive. This year the av­er­age amount each house­hold is ex­pected to spend on Christ­mas is £822. It costs us about £1,000 a day to run the mu­seum so any gift you can make to us will make a huge dif­fer­ence. You can make a do­na­tion by cheque sent to the mu­seum di­rec­tor at the mu­seum ad­dress (New­land Park, Gore­lands Lane, Chal­font St Giles, HP8 4AB) or email en­ to find out about other ways of giv­ing.

If you are stuck for Christ­mas present ideas, why not think about buy­ing an an­nual pass for your loved ones to give them the gift of un­lim­ited vis­its to the mu­seum dur­ing the open sea­son in 2015, in­clud­ing all the fan­tas­tic events. Or buy a unique Ex­pe­ri­ence Day black­smithing in the forge, work­ing with heavy horses, or bak­ing with our his­toric cook. Email en­ to make a book­ing or pur­chase a pass.

Merry Christ­mas ev­ery­one!

The Henton tin chapel may well have hosted carol singers dur­ing its past

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