Custom: The Butterworth Charity Sixpence
About: Started by Joshua Butterworth in 1887, the Butterworth charity awards a sixpence to up to 21 poor widows in the church parish, and hot cross buns to all children in attendance. As we no longer use sixpences, over the years its become tradition to distribute what they would be worth in today’s money – around 20p. However this year’s sole claimant got lucky, as the church had found an old sixpence and awarded her that instead. And they gave everyone in attendance a hot cross bun, not just the children!
Custom: The Widow’s Son Bun Ceremony
About: The ceremony is held in an old east end boozer, built on the site of a widow’s house. The story goes that the widow had a son who went to war and asked for a fresh hot cross bun for his return at Easter. She baked one for him, but he sadly didn’t return from the battlefield. Every year that followed, she dutifully baked another, and kept them all strung up in a net hanging from the ceiling. The pub continues the custom today, annually hanging a bun from the ceiling above the bar.
Custom: Tichborne Dole
About: Established in the twelfth century by the lady of Tichborne House, Mabella Tichborne, as she lay on her deathbed. She wanted to leave a donation in her will, annually gifting food to the poor. Begrudgingly, her husband offered her land to do so, on a condition; she could have as much land as she could run around, with a lit flame. She made it round 23 acres before the flame expired. Ever since her death in c1150, every resident in the Tichborne area is entitled to one gallon of flour every year – their surnames are read out one by one, followed by the gallons due “Harris two and a half”
Custom: Olney Pancake Race
About: This annual race has been going for over 500 years. It is said to have started in 1445, when a local woman panicked when she heard church bells ringing from her kitchen and, fearing she would be late for a Shriving service to confess her sins before Lent, she ran through the town in her apron, holding her pan.
Custom: Atherstone Ball Game
About: This is an annual game, dating back to 1199, when Leicestershire and Warwickshire teams played a match using a bag full of gold. It’s brutal, bloody, and seemed more like an excuse for a sanctioned brawl than anything else.
Custom: The Blessing of the Throats
About: All ceremony and no pomp. Following catholic mass on February 3rd, two candles are held up to the throats of worshippers – and their throats are blessed. CalendarCustoms described the St Etheldreda’s service in Holborn as the most celebrated in London, so that’s where I went.
Custom: Sir John Cass Founder’s Day
About: Another church service, but this one was certainly livelier… The Lord Mayor of the City of London and LOADS of school children are present, all to celebrate the founder of the Sir John Cass foundation and its associated schools. All attendees wear red feathers – a symbol for Cass’ blood stained quill. He signed his will (and the money to fund the schools) as he was dying, causing much controversy over its authenticity.
Thoughts on 2018:
The Big Stuff:
This was a year of finding our footing again. It took a while, but we’re now pretty settled into parenthood. I took three months off work to look after the sprog. I can’t say I did anywhere near as a good as job as Soph did, but hey – we survived. We went on a few short trips away as a family, and I took a few trips away with friends too. Work was less climactic than last year, but I got to spend a lot of time with some good clients on some exciting projects. I spent some time acting as trustee for Depaul UK but found I didn’t have much time for my own side projects.
The Small Stuff:
Played squash most weeks, until it got too cold in December. Lots and lots and lots of walks to Starbucks in Mile End, in the hope sprog would fall asleep en route. Plenty of fuck-ups. Plenty of melt-downs. No music gigs, one comedy gig, a couple of films – but what to expect with a 1 year old. The first of (hopefully) many BBQs at our new home. Dry January and Dry October, with a holiday-ish run up to Christmas.
Quote for the year:
“Dad seems to be coping okay. No parental concern.”
Books read: 20
Best three books:Number of photos taken: 9825
Number of songs starred on Spotify: 72
Most listened to track: A Beautiful Spring Day – George Bruns
Series watched: Seinfeld, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, House of Cards S6, The Staircase, Narcos S3, The Crown S2, Bodyguard, The Informer
Album of the Year: 11 Nursery Rhymes – Nursery Rhymes 123
Film of the Year: The Darkest Hour
Pub Quizzes Partaken: 1
Pub Quizzes Won: 0
Trips to the doctor: 0
Trips to the dentist: 2
Trips to the vet: 1
Museums visited: 13 (including the V&A Museum of Childhood many times…)
New Year’s Resolutions:
Dry February. Find more time for writing. Find more time for side projects. Sort out the garden and host more BBQs. Matcha over coffee.
Custom: The Lighting of the St Paul’s Christmas Trees
About: A special annual service in which the crib is blessed and the Christmas trees are lit. It’s hard to find anything concrete about its history – but it’s not as old as you’d expect. In fact, even as late as the 1930s, one writer states that the chapter of St Paul’s felt uncomfortable introducing the Christmas tree lights ‘innovation’.
Custom: The Ceremony of the Keys
About: It’s said to be the oldest military ceremony in the world, performed nightly for 700 years. At 9.53pm, a 7 minute long, faultlessly choreographed tradition takes place, as the Yeoman Warders and Queens Guard lock up the tower for the night. Tickets to watch it are free, but they go 12 months in advanced. Nonetheless, on the night I saw it (the 21st December) 40 people didn’t show up – so the ten of us that made it were treated to a private tour of the tower and the guard room by the very generous beefeater, Moira.
Custom: The Boxing Day Mummers Play
About: Mummers plays are one of the oldest surviving traditions of the British Christmas. This one, performed outside Gloucester Cathedral on Boxing day, has been going for about half a century. It follows the traditional structure – two characters engaging in combat, revived by a quack doctor. Several Morris sides also perform (including my Grampy’s old side – Lassington Oak).
Custom: The Boar’s Head Ceremony
About: One of London’s oldest traditions – it’s been traced back to 1343. Like several of these city traditions, it has its roots in land rental. A group of butchers in London got into trouble washing meat and disposing of entrails near a local monastery. To settle the issue, the Lord Mayor of London gave them some land to use, in exchange for a boars head every November. The boar’s head was paraded from Butchers Company hall down to Mansion House, but they now use a model (with the real boar’s head in place, ready for carving, at Mansion House.)