Many winter festivals have trees and the greenwood at their heart, and this idea forms the basis of the Weald and Downlands Open Air Museum's annual festival on the first Sunday in December (at the end of National Tree Week). First held in 1990 but based on much older traditions, the tree dressing marks the climax of a full day of additional activities at the museum. These included craft sessions to make garland headdresses, jam jar lanterns, and beeswax candles; bread-making in the Tudor kitchen; roasted chestnuts; mulled cider (or apple juice) and spiced biscuits; and acorn planting. Dances, songs and plays were performed in the village's Market Square by Rabble Folk Theatre and Mythago Morris. I particularly enjoyed the 'Tale of the Oak King and the Holly King' as performed by Rabble.
At 3.45 we all assembled in the Market Square with lanterns lit, and Rabble led us In procession past some of the Museum's other buildings, through the woods and back down the grassy slope to the twin aspen trees just up from the Market Square. All those with lanterns stepped forward to dress the trees' bare branches, then as the sun went down, singers from Rabble led a rendition of the traditional 'The Trees of the Greenwood'. As the day drew to a close we all linked hands to perform what may be the world's largest spiral dance around the trees.
Photos of the day can be found on my LJ in this post or at any of the sites I've linked to above.
The Museum will be open throughout the winter, and I'll be going back one day between Boxing Day and New Year's Day when all the Museum's houses will be decorated according to the festive traditions of their period. An ideal way to walk off the overindulgences of Christmas, although the Museum does provide very reasonably-priced and tasty food if you burn off too much energy.
One commenter on this post will win both a DRM-free digital copy of A Series of Ordinary Adventures and a photo-calendar illustrated with 13 of my photos of random places in the UK.
Born in Sheffield, England's Steel City, and raised in a village on the boundary of the White and Dark Peaks, Stevie Carroll was nourished by a diet of drama and science fiction from the BBC and ITV, and a diverse range of books, most notably Diane Wynne-Jones and The Women's Press, from the only library in the valley.
Now based in Hampshire, Stevie somehow manages to combine thoughts of science fiction, fantasy and historical mysteries with a day-job writing for the pharmaceuticals industry and far too many voluntary posts working with young people, with animals and in local politics. Stevie's short story, 'The Monitors', was longlisted by the 2010 Tiptree Awards jury, and Stevie's first solo collection A Series of Ordinary Adventures was published in May 2012 (also available from Amazon and Amazon.co.uk, Bookdepository, and everywhere else good books are sold).
Stevie has an LJ for updates on writing and research trips, and really needs to get a website.