STRANGE WINTER CELEBRATIONS
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.