Category Archives: Christmas

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2017. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

Each December we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard that year to showcase in our end of year message and this year the runaway victors are from just up the road from us in Berkhamsted. We give you Flatcaps & Fisticuffs and their wicked version of ‘Good King Wenceslas’. The EP it’s from is availanble as a free download from here.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

Christmas

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th(Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

Now go have a drink…

EP REVIEW: FLATCAPS & FISTICUFFS- ‘Candy Cane’ (2017)

Twas only a couple of weeks ago that we reviewed Flatcaps & Fisticuffs debut EP and low and behold straight after another one lands on our doorstep. This time it’s a Christmas themed romp and it’s also available as a *FREE* download!

We kind of compared them to Matilda’s Scoundrels in our review of their debut EP Raspberry Cheesecake (here) but releases in a month is even beyond Matilda’s level of prolificness! Poor Bing will be rotating in his grave as the Bhoys annihilate the old-school Christmas banger ‘White Christmas’ as your starter, lay into ‘Good King Wenceslas’ as the chicken-in-turkey mains and then shock us all, especially me, with a cover of Run-D.M.C.’s ‘Christmas In Hollis’ bringing down the curtain as the classic Christmas Pudding dessert. A trio of tunes that will be sure to get your nan swinging from a low-hanging branch of the Christmas tree!

(as filmed in one take!)

You can download Candy Cane for free from SoundCloud or the Flatcaps & Fisticuffs website but you can play it using the Soundcloud player below.

Download Candy Cane

*FREE* FromTheBand *FREE*

Contact Fisticuffs & Flatcaps

WebSite  Facebook  Soundcloud  Twitter  YouTube

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

It’s the first of December so let your pint glass be half full for a change and get into the festive spirit with what started as a Top Ten but but soon became the London Celtic Punk’s Top Twenty of the best kick-arse Christmas celtic-punk tunes ever written and absolutely no surprises at #1.

20. THE PRIESTS FEATURING SHANE MacGOWAN-  ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth’

Yeah you read that right. It may not quite reach the heights of Bing’n’Bowie but feck it nothing this man does is anything short of brilliant!

19. THE RUFFIANS- ‘Christmas In Killarney’

The Ruffians cover the holiday classic Christmas in Killarney on their 2005 Christmas EP Together at Christmas.

18. REILLY- ‘Paddy’s Christmas’

Milwaukee Celtic punk band Reilly’s version of Snoopy’s Christmas, now called Paddy’s Christmas on their 2008 album Kick Ass Celtic Christmas.

17. THE GOBSHITES- ‘Christmas Eve in the Boozer’

Boston Celtic punk band The Gobshites’ cover of the Yobs’ Christmas Eve in the Boozer. On The Gobshites’ album When the Shite Hits the Fan.

16. IRISH ROVER – ‘Christmas Time In Hells’

Performed entirely by  Rover MacChroi and one for the miserablists out there. This guys glass is definitly half empty!

15. DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘AK47 [All I Want For Christmas Is An]’

Proof the Murphs can do no wrong…

14. THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Auld Lang Syne’

Now not strictly a Christmas song but I’ve met Scots who actually enjoy Hogmaney (New Years Eve) more than Christmas!

13. THE MAHONES- ‘Angels Without Wings/Merry Christmas Baby’

From The Mahones 2012 album Angels & Devils here is their awesome Christmas song featuring Felicity Hamer.

12. SHANE MacGOWAN- ‘Christmas Lullaby’

Gotta love this tune. Irish blues with a punk rock edge. McGowan nails it again.

11. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS- ‘White Christmas’

Belfast punk rock legends, and still going from strength to strength, cause Bing to rotate in his grave with this which appeared on the B-side of ‘The Edge’ 7″ in 1979.

10. SHILELAGH LAW- ‘Christmas in New York’

Christmas is many things to many people. I will always remember that a good mate Steve died on Christmas Eve and so it’s also a good time to think of those who have passed and raise a glass to them. Here’s a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, by NY’ers Shilelagh Law.

9. MALASAÑERS- ‘Xmas Tree’

Rousing celtic-punk from Spain and available to download for free at: malasaners.bandcamp.com. Watch out for their new album due any day soon.

8. FINNEGAN’S HELL- ‘Drunken Christmas’

Sweden’s Finnegan’s Hell deliver an unorthodox Christmas anthem and yeah, yeah, yeah some Irish stereotyping sure but get over yourselves. What is it you think The Dubliners sang about? My house at Christmas was more like this than what you see on the BBC I can tell you. Anyway judge for yourself!

7. CelKILT- ‘Santa Santa!’

CeltKilt from France even released a full album of Christmas themed songs Kiltmas Songs! in 2015 and as they say themselves, and it sounds better in French I think, “festive celtic rock celtique festif”.

6. THE WAGES OF SIN- ‘Merry Christmas from the Wages’

Enjoy the festive sights, sounds, and smells of the season with Wages Of Sin and their first, and possibly last, holiday single!

5. DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE- ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’

Possibly a bit much for this Catholic Bhoy to bare so if you of a delicate disposition skip to #6. It is hilarious though from this Oregon band from their 2007 album Christmas Songs for Drunken Atheists.

4. THE GENTLEMEN- ‘Oi! To The World’

Oi to the world! so said old punkers The Vandals and this cover by The Gentlemen from West Virginia captures perfectly. One of the celtic-punk scenes most under rated bands does anyone know what became them? Any family opening up Christmas presents to this album is an top one in my book.

3. THE NARROWBACKS- Prodigal Son(I’ll be home for Christmas)

Part filmed at Paddy Reilly’s in New York this song actually brought a tear to my eye when I first heard it. After a couple of years of not speaking to my Mammy after a stupid argument we had only just made up. Kids look after your family. Keep them close and love them lots.

2. THE DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘The Seasons Upon Us’ (2016)

Unfortunate to go up against The Pogues this is The Murphys superb Christmas epic. Hilarious video of Irish-American life. Sure to lift the spirits.

1. THE POGUES FEATURING KIRSTY MacCOLL- Fairytale Of New York

When you see other Christmas best of list’s they always put ‘Arguably the greatest Christmas song of all time’ well we’ve no time for that bollocks. It is without a doubt THE greatest Christmas song of all time so there! R.I.P Kirsty

so there’s our Top Twenty. If you think we missed any post in the comments as is usually the way with these things we couldn’t stop there so bubbling under here’s one to play loud and proud!

…and so we end with some great words “let’s not fight tonight”. Just listen to The Ramones instead.

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2016. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

All the best for a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year for us all…

Every year we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard to showcase in our end of year message and this year the runaway victors is from NYC’s The Narrowbacks.

Starring Rigel Byrne as Santa Claus. Filmed by Tamara Lee and James Haag. Recorded at Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar, 519 Second Avenue, New York. The Narrowbacks music available on iTunes and Amazon.

Buy The New Album- iTunes  Amazon
Contact The Narrowbacks-

FIRE IT UP!!

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

Christmas

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Now go have a drink…

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: JOHNNY CASH- ‘The Christmas Spirit’ (1963)

Songwriter. Six-string strummer. Storyteller. Country boy. Rock star. Folk hero. Preacher. Poet. Drug addict. Rebel. Saint AND sinner. Victim. Survivor. Home wrecker. Husband. Father. Son. and more…

FREE DOWNLOAD

Though he would go on to later make umpteen Christmas themed albums this was Johnny Cash’s first attempt and by far his greatest. Released in 1963 The Christmas Spirit features twelve songs of which many were penned either by the great man himself or his family and a handful of Johnny’s unparalleled Christmas standards such as ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Blue Christmas’.

johnny-cash-christmas

The Christmas Spirit was released on 1st November 1963 on Columbia Records and had a re-release in the the early 1990’s where the production was re-mastered. Now my Mammy use to own a whole load of Johnny Cash album’s and among them were several Christmas records that could, I’m afraid, be described as Cash-in’s (groan…). This record though has an authentic feel to it. Like Johnny was singing with all his heart and soul on this one, coming as it did not long into the start of his recording career.

cash-christmas

The Christmas Spirit has twelve songs and comes in at just under forty minutes. It has three songs composed solely by Johnny and one co-written with his father-in-law Ezra ‘Eck’ Carter. It also features two songs written by Johnny’s wife and long time collaborator June Carter. As for the songs it’s all about the wonderful and warm voice of Johnny Cash. ‘Christmas As I Knew It’ is an biographical song about Johnny’s childhood Christmasses in Dyess, Arkansas that was written by June and Jan Howard. Johnny speaks from the heart about his working class background and his family and their Christmas traditions.

The LP features Johnny’s amazing version of ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ plus ‘Here Was a Man’ and ‘Christmas As I Knew It’, plus more like ‘Blue Christmas’, at the time made famous by Johnny’s old label mate Elvis Presley, and a warm reading of ‘Silent Night’, making The Christmas Spirit a groundbreaking effort for this sorely missed legend. Johnny sings lead vocals on all the songs with backing from various Carter family members and the feel of the album is one of absolute calm. It may not be very fashionable for some Johnny Cash-come latelys to admit that religion was one of the driving forces in one way or another throughout Johnny’s career but it certainly was.

The Christmas Spirit by Johnny Cash

“On Christmas Eve I dreamed I traveled all around the earth
And in my dream I saw and heard the ways the different people hail the king
Whose star shone in the east and what a dream it was
In London Town I walked around Piccadilly Circus

A mass of people movin’ here and there I wandered where
On every face at every place was hurry up I’m late
But a kind old man at a chestnut stand said merry Christmas mate
And I felt the Christmas spirit

In a little town nestled down in Bavaria Germany
I walked along to see what the feeling there would be
And here again was the busy din the rushin’ the yellin’
But some kind boy said Frohliche Weihnachten
Not understanding the words but gettin’ the buyin’ and sellin’
I felt the Christmas spirit

In Bethlehem I heard a hymn some distant choir sang
And with other tourists I walked along to a church as its bells rang
Then I heard someone tell someone there’s where Christ was born
I wonder if he looked like our baby looked on that first morn

And then I really felt the Christmas spirit
From a businessman in the Holy Land as a sidewalk souvenir shop
I bought a little Bible since I’d hardly stopped
And it was in Paris France somehow by chance that I took the Bible out

And as I flipped the pages I saw these words and I knew what it was all about
For I read fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy
Which shall be to all people
For unto you he was born this day in the City of David a Saviour
Which is Christ the Lord

Then I took the little Holy Book held it close and tight
I closed my eyes and visualized the glory of that night
So suddenly it came to me for when I awoke on Christmas Day
I felt the Christmas spirit down deep inside to stay

cash-and-june

Johnny and June

From the very beginning of his career Johnny Cash recorded gospel songs and if Johnny Cash sang it then you knew Johnny Cash believed in it with all his conviction. His rugged voice, growling, sometimes simply speaking of killers and Jesus in the same breath. He himself had at heart this combination of light and darkness. He was a devout Christian who read his bible daily even in the middle of the deep and dark drug addiction he suffered from. There’s not a single bad song here. Johnny’s voice saves it from any excessive garishness or sentimentality making it a must have for any Cash fans or anyone looking for some Christmas music that ranks up their with ‘Fairytale Of New York’. Johnny Cash was both saint and sinner personified and at what better time to remember him than now at Christmas..

FREE DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

cash-csc

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

(if the links are broken please leave a comment and we will fix)

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2015. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

All the best for a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year for us all…

(Danish/Dublin band ROVERS AHEAD have released a new Christmas single for 2015)

CELTIC CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st, the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun.

Christmas

Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958.

However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games.

Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home.

Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour.

Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn.

On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets.

Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts!

Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday.

Finally, in older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.

Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats).

The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

support a fantastic celtic-punk band by giving just a measly dollar (or about 66p in Brit money) by downloading the new Rovers Ahead single below from Bandcamp)

Now go and have a drink!

%d bloggers like this: