Suffolk’s Christmas Traditions Through the Ages
There’s seemingly something about Christmas which inspires traditions unlike any other time of the year. From November until December we start donning paper hats, fuzzy jumpers and welcoming the arrival of choristers on our doorsteps. We also collectively agree that it’s ok to eat our body weight in mince pies before drifting off into a slumber in front of a James Bond film. It really is the most fantastic time of the year.
In Suffolk, there are a fair few local traditions that have evolved over time and are, in some cases at least, well worth trying out when you’re staying at one of our Barns or Barges for rent.
The Cutty Wren
Undoubtedly the most unique to Suffolk Christmas tradition and one which inspires as much curiosity as confusion is that of The Cutty Wren. Though its origins are lost to time, this old-time tradition takes place each Boxing Day and looks a little something like this:
As darkness descends on the village of Middleton, villagers gather in the street as the sound of a drum begins to ring out and flaming torches light up the sky. Emerging from the darkness comes a man dressed in Victorian farming attire. With a blackened face he sweeps clear a path for another gentleman in finery who passes through with an equally well turned-out lady with whiskers. Behind these two is another man transporting a pole festooned with green garlands who is surrounded by musicians playing a tune. Making their way through the village to the pub (where else would an English tradition be hosted?), this motley crew begins dancing and singing in celebration.
To those in the know, this is the ceremony of the Cutty Wren, an annual party for the King of the Birds. Historically, the villagers would make the end of this celebration by hunting down and killing a wren. Nowadays, however, this element of the proceedings is conducted using a wooden replica. So, if you fancy experiencing something truly unique to Suffolk this Christmas, why not get yourself down to Middleton?
A Brisk Swim
In line with other counties on the coast, Suffolk attracts many brave souls who plunge into cold seas over Christmas to raise money for charity. To do so otherwise would be a sure sign of madness. Often dressed in something a little silly and eye-catching, the prime locations for Christmas swimmers in Suffolk are Lowestoft and Southwold.
The Turkey Drive
Whilst modern transport and shifts in dietary preferences have put an end to this particular Suffolk Christmas tradition, there was once a time (in the late 17th Century, to be exact) when farmers in Suffolk would walk – yes, walk – their turkeys to London. Helping to meet the demand for the popular Christmas meat, this long walk naturally produced many traffic jams and took around four months to complete, owing to the fact that a turkey averages about a mile an hour. Perhaps some Christmas traditions are best kept in the past?