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December 2017: A West Country Christmas – Dorset in December

Thomas Hardy’s celebration of Christmas in Dorset in his early novel Under the Greenwood Tree is perhaps second only to A Christmas Carol (a version ...More
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Blidworth Cradle Rocking, Nottinghamshire

What seems to be a survival of the way some churches used to demonstrate scriptural events is still to be found in Blidworth in Nottinghamshire. Centuries back few in congregations could read, so tableaux and plays would be employed to help them understand key biblical moments and fix them in their minds.
The Blidworth tradition takes place on the Sunday nearest Candlemas (February 2nd), the celebration of the presentation of Christ at the temple that the custom commemorates. A boy born to married Christian parents – the nearest born to the preceding Christmas Day – is rocked in a cradle by the Vicar of St Mary of the Purification (Mary’s purification another aspect of Candlemas) while the congregation gives thanks.
This is the second revival of the custom: it is said that the event became so drunken and raucous – with one fatality associated with the carousing – in the early 17th century that it was stopped by the then incumbent. In 1842 it was revived by the Rev. John Lowndes, but went into abeyance again, to be restarted once more in 1922. The names of each boy rocked in the ceremony since that 1922 recommencement are recorded on a board at the church.
Blidworth is proud to be the only village where such a tradition persists, a cast-iron cradle centrally placed in the settlement advertising it to the passing world.

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