STRANGE WIN­TER CEL­E­BRA­TIONS

Countryfile Magazine - - Mari Lwyd -

1. FIREBALL-SWING­ING, STONEHAVEN, SCOT­LAND

A 150-year-old fire cer­e­mony that be­gins when the first bell is rung at mid­night on New Year’s Eve. Drum­mers and pipers lead a pa­rade of peo­ple swing­ing balls of wire on long poles, filled with com­bustible news­pa­per, sticks and rags.

2. FLAM­ING TAR BAR­REL PA­RADE, ALLENDALE, NORTHUM­BER­LAND

An­other New Year’s Eve tra­di­tion, in which tar bar­rels orig­i­nally meant for min­ing or road-build­ing in the North East are reused as flam­ing head­gear, in a health-and-safe­tyflout­ing pro­ces­sion of light. 3. KIRKWALL BA GAME, KIRKWALL, ORKNEY A me­dieval mass foot­ball match still played every Christ­mas Day and New Year’s Day. Its rules are vague, but one team’s goal is the sea, and the other is near the town’s Catholic church. Over 300 usu­ally par­tic­i­pate.

4. THE HAXEY HOOD, HAXEY, NORTH LIN­COLNSHIRE

An al­ter­na­tive rugby game on 6 Jan­uary, where a leather tube is walked be­tween one of four pubs in Haxey vil­lage by the means of a large, dis­or­dered scrum. Land­lords give free pints as part of the tra­di­tion, which surely en­sures its con­tin­ued pop­u­lar­ity.

5. WHITTLESEA STRAW BEAR FES­TI­VAL, CAM­BRIDGESHIRE

Held on the first Mon­day af­ter Twelfth Night in the vil­lage of Whittlesea, a lo­cal man or boy is cov­ered from head-to-foot in straw and led from house to house to dance for gifts of money, food, or beer. The cus­tom was re­vived in 1980 and is now a long pro­ces­sion fea­tur­ing mu­si­cians, dancers and street per­form­ers.

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Jude Rogers is a BBC jour­nal­ist, broad­caster, arts critic and lec­turer. She grew up in Swansea and now lives in the coun­try­side near Aber­gavenny.

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