A-Manx-Christmas

Articles from the Isle of Man Part 1 of 2

Manx Christmas Traditions, by John K Qualtrough of Port St Mary, IOM

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It is interesting to record that the Rev. John Entick, M.A., in an historical and geographical description of the British Empire published in London in 1774, records a short account concerning the "Keeping of Christmas" in the Isle of Man.

This account is as follows:

" They have a peculiar way of keeping Christmas.

In the evening of the 24th December, all servants are allowed to knock off business, who ramble about till the clock strikes twelve; and then the bells ring in all the churches to call them to prayers, which, being ended, they go to hunt the wren, kill the first they find, lay her with great solemnity on a bier, bring her to the parish church, bury her with whimsical ceremonies, singing dirges over her in Manks tongue, which they call her knell. This done, Christmas begins.

Every barn is occupied for the twelve days. Every parish provides fiddlers at the public charge to accommodate the young people, who spend the nights in dancing.

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. This is termed: The cutting off the fiddler’s head, because he becomes useless till the next year."

February 2002

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