FEATURE: Joby Mageean’s Five Favourite Christmas Traditions That Are Actually Geordie | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Hello There! My name is Joby Mageean, I am a comedian from the beautiful seaside village of Cullercoats,

Recently I have been writing a show all about Christmas and the history of Christmas in Newcastle. I feel so privileged to live in a town that celebrates Christmas so vehemently, from the high street Christmas window displays to the abundance of temporary German stalls flogging their Stollen goods. However when researching historical facts I have found that the North East of England should be taking credit for even more Christmas traditions we all know and love.

So without further ado I give you my 5 Favourite Christmas traditions that are actually Geordie!

Mulled Wine

Starting off with a bang I give you the remarkable tradition of mulled wine, the art of heating and adding spices to wine has made day drinking whilst shopping in an outdoor market seem acceptable for decades. But the origins of mulled wine begin in the 2nd century with Roman Conquest of Europe. The legions brought with them wherever they travelled grapes and wine (the essentials) but it was those based in the colder climates of the Anglo-Scottish border – modern day Wallsend – that decided to heat up the beverage. There is even an old Roman recipe called Conditum Paradoxum, a spiced wine which was drank on Saturnalia, an ancient winter festival celebrated from 17th – 23rd of December in honour of Saturn, the god of time. The recipe is of a white wine heated with peppercorns and fennel seeds.

There is also some information to show that the Norse Vikings drank ‘Glögg’ a similar spiced wine on their northern conquests but the fact remains when faced with the harsh winters of the Tyne most travelling communities came to the conclusion they’d earned themselves a hot bevvy.

The 12 Days Of Christmas!

FIVE GOLD RINGS!! These three words sang confidently in the midst of other less accurate mumblings of varying numbers of job roles and poultry are a part of any good festive season. But did you know the oldest written version of this song was printed by Thomas Angus from Gateshead in 1774. The song gained further popularity in the North East in the 1800’s after being printed in the Newcastle Chronicle as a fun family game to play during the festive period, personally I prefer charades.

Shops Closed on Christmas Day

So when thinking about Christmas Day one rarely thinks of the Christmas Day Trading Act of 2004, but it’s place in the law has played it’s part in keeping Christmas Day as time to be spent with family and friends and keeping business away from the major retailers. Traditionally it was always custom for shops to be closed on the 25th of December but during the late 1990’s shops such as Woolworths started introducing Christmas opening hours, This restricted employees from earning overtime for the Christmas period and took business away from smaller local pubs and shops that also remained open. It was former Newcastle Polytechnic student and MP for Chester Le Street and North Durham, Kevan Jones who introduced the new law as “An Act to prohibit the opening of large shops on Christmas Day and to restrict the loading or unloading of goods at such shops on Christmas Day.” He stated ‘The aim of the Act was to keep Christmas Day a “special” day’ Thanks Kev, now I have to buy my last minute presents on Christmas Eve!

Little Donkey

I’ll have to give credit to Sunderland born composer Eric Boswell for this one, so more Mackem than Geordie but close enough. Boswell wrote many fantastic songs during his long career including some humorous numbers for Bobby Thompson and also helping Catherine Cookson adapt one of her Novels into a stage musical, but his most popular piece would have to be “Little Donkey” a staple song in the classic Nativity Play. Although it is said that Boswell had mixed feelings about the song and much preferred his more comedic work, the song to this day remains popular in schools sang half-heartedly by tea towel clad children nationwide.

The Boxing Day Dip!

Getting your kit off and running to the sea at Christmas has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, not just nationally but internationally.  However as with most of these seasonal traditions the original and the best is always found in the north east. The first annual winter swim events for Charity started in Whitley Bay and Seaburn in the 1970’s the latter being the Largest dip in Europe attracting around 5000 visitors every year. It seems all that practice of wearing next to nothing in blistering cold weather has finally paid off.

So there you have it, it’s safe to say that Christmas would be a lot less fun without the great county of Tyne and Wear, with colder wine and warmer, dryer people.

But the amazing thing is, these 5 facts barely scratch the surface of our rich Christmas History. If you would like to find out more why not come see my Stand Up Comedy  show Wassail! This Saturday 8th December, at 4pm at The Chillingham Arms to find out more funny and interesting facts about the Tyneside Yuletide!

Tickets are £5 and can be found here.

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