Posts Tagged ‘Sochelnik’

Christmas Heritage – Week 28 of the Oswestry Heritage Comics

Everywhere is a melting pot – and everywhere has always been a melting pot. The heritage of Oswestry, of the Borderlands, of Shropshire, of England, of Britain, of Europe is the result of the bringing together of customs, history and traditions from thousands of different peoples across thousands of years. Take something as “traditional” as a Shropshire Christmas, and you will find within it echoes of Celtic, Roman, mediaeval and eastern European winter festivals and celebrations. How does this happen? How do we end up with bits of Saturnalia embedded into Christmas, despite the fact that the Romans and their religions haven’t been seen in Britain for almost two thousand years?

I think we have to look to “heritage” rather than “history” or “archaeology” to help explain this one – and to the way in which ordinary people – like us – relate to the past. When it comes to Christmas, just about everyone has something “old” associated with what they do or how they decorate their house. Maybe it’s a figurine left by a great-grandparent, maybe it’s just the tradition of going to visit the Aunts in Dorset on Boxing Day; maybe it’s a certain set of German Christmas carols that always get sung, or a particular American recipe for egg-nog that you always mix; maybe you always buy tins of Celebrations, not Roses – maybe you always have Christmas dinner, not Christmas lunch; maybe you only put red ribbons and fairy lights on the tree, not tinsel and baubles. Whatever these little family traditions and customs might be, they are echoes of different kinds of Christmases – Christmas in America, Christmas in Germany, Christmas in 1969, Christmas during the war – and when we repeat them, and make them part of the way we “do” Christmas, we are preserving bits of other cultures and other times.

Repeat that for every family in Oswestry, for every family in Shropshire, for every family in Britain, with relatives and family connections across the globe, from Hong Kong to Oman, Patagonia to Orkney, Birmingham to Bombay – and you end up with a Christmas that’s a patchwork quilt of influences, customs, traditions and inheritances, from Yule to St. Lucia’s Day, Borodin to Día de las Velitas, from Kiahk to sochelnik. We all contribute to making our Shropshire Christmases the diverse celebration of culture that they really are. And through them, we have an opportunity to explore the rich and varied heritage of Christmases past.

Happy Christmas from the Oswestry Heritage Comics!

The Oswestry Heritage Comics are a year-long series of weekly newspaper comic strips about the archaeology, history and heritage of the area around Oswestry, Shropshire in the UK. The comics are published in the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer every Tuesday, and on Facebook. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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