Saturday, 6 January 2018

Happy Holly Night!

It's Holly Night tonight!
Get your marching band, light a branch of holly (Ash is an accepted substitute) and march through the town to the public house.
There is no need to extinguish the holly, just drink your ale and try not to singe your beard.

"To every branch a torch they tie,
To every torch a light apply,
At each new light send forth huzzas
Till all the tree is in a blaze ;
And then bear it flaming through the town,
With minstrelsy, and. rockets throwr."

The following information about Holly Night in Brough is taken from The Table  Book by William Hone

"Formerly the " Holly-tree" at Brough was
really " holly," but ash being abundant,
the latter is now. substituted. There are
two head inns in the town, which provide
for the ceremony alternately, though the
good townspeople mostly lend their assistance
in preparing the tree, to every branch
of which they fasten a torch. About eight
o'clock in the evening, it is taken to a convenient
part of the town, where the torches
are lighted, the town band accompanying
and playing till all is completed, when
it is removed to the lower end of the town;
and, after divers salutes and huzzas from
the spectators, is carried up and down the
town, in stately procession, usually by a
person of renowned strength, named Joseph
Ling. The band march behind it, playing
their instruments, and stopping every
time they reach the town bridge, and the
cross, where the " holly" is again greeted
with shouts of applause. Many of the inhabitants
carry lighted branches and flambeaus
; and rockets, squibs, &c. are discharged
on the joyful occasion. After the
tree is thus carried, and the torches are
sufficiently burnt, it is placed in the middle
of the town, when it is again cheered by
the surrounding populace, and is afterwards
thrown among them. They eagerly watch
for this opportunity ; and, clinging to each
end of the tree, endeavour to carry it away
to the inn they are contending for, where
they are allowed their usual quantum of
ale and spirits, and pass a " merry night,"
it seldom breaks up before two in the

Although the origin of this usage is lost,
and no tradition exists by which it can be
traced, yet it may not be a strained surmise
to derive it from the church ceremony of
the day when branches of trees were carried
in procession to decorate the altars, in commemoration
of the offerings of the Magi,
whose names are handed down to us as
Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar, the patrons
of travellers. In catholic countries,
flambeaus and torches always abound in
their ceremonies ; and persons residing in
the streets through which they pass, testify
their zeal and piety by providing flambeaus
at their own expense, and bringing them
 to the doors of their houses.

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