Boxing Day in England
A cold but bright day for the day after Christmas – “Boxing day” – the day on which Christmas “boxes” of cash gifts were given to visiting tradesmen, (nowadays left with a Christmas card, given to the postman & the milkman) – and for me, a visit to the little town of Overton, in North Hampshire, where I am studying the grave ornamentations in the new graveyard there.
A poignant Christmas embellishment to Pamela Saul's grave
I had hoped to gather images of any Christmas contributions to the graves, and was not disappointed. Many graves bore beautiful, traditional wreaths and decorations, whilst some of the decorations were less conventional, but still spoke of an ongoing relationship of remembrance between the living and the dead.
The second reason to visit was in hope of catching the performance of the Overton Mummers play – an ancient form of performance, which has been revived in Overton (and performed there and in surrounding villages) since, I believe, the 1970’s, using a script which is recorded as having been collected in 1913. The plays are much, much older, however - the term was used in medieval times, though the earliest hard evidence in the form of surviving scripts goes back back to the 18th century. Many performances died out in post-war times, but since the 1960’s many villages all over England have rediscovered and revived this delightful form of entertainment.
The mummers (also known as “guisers” – those in disguise) form part of the rich tradition of folk plays which can still be seen in Britain, in the same spirit as Pantomime, bringing light and jollity (and not a little political comment and bawdy innuendo) to the dark days of midwinter.
King George and the rear view of Old Father Christmas
I was not disappointed today – after a short visit to the church to see the interior decorations for Christmas, I caught the end of the performance in the Town square, then – (after a half pint of ale in The Greyhound Inn, a requisite imbibing before viewing to ensure full satisfaction!) we were summoned outside by “Musician” to watch the play. Old Father Christmas told the tale, Bold Slasher and The Turkish Knight both battled and were killed by King George, and then revived by The Doctor. Twing-Twang added his five pennyworth, we all commiserated “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear” at the deaths – but in the end all was well – and much more ale was drunk!