Have you ever heard of the Christmas Revels? It’s a holiday celebration based on the way people from many different cultures have celebrated the solstice, Christmas and the start of a new year. It’s a loud and glorious event, filled with pageantry and silliness as well as dignity and drama.
Borrowing from the indigenous and later cultures of the British Isles, northern Europe and other northern regions, singers and dancers of all ages keep the flame alive by staying as true to tradition as possible. Instruments are acoustic, dancers are amateur, singers are pretty good but all volunteers.
Every program contains some of the same elements—the Yule log or a reasonable facsimile, Christmas stories, a Mummer’s play, Morris dancing or other ancient dance, familiar and esoteric music, but always sing-alongs, and always the song Lord of the Dance.
We’ve gone several times to the Boston version, and loved every minute of it. One year they featured music and tales from French Canada; one year, Germany; and another time, medieval Europe. The music, staging and costumes were magical.
Considering the recession and the weather, we opted for the cheap version this year, and attended a Welcome Yule program in our area. It saved us about five hours on the road, and quite a bit of money.
All in all, both the Revels and Welcome Yule progams lift our spirits and remind us what we have in common with our ancestors from way, way back. It’s tough going through dark times. Rich or poor, old or young, we need to know there’s a light somewhere ahead---literally or figuratively—to show us the way out of the dark and cold. Call it rebirth or whatever you will. If we didn’t have Christmas at this time of year, we’d have to invent it.
Click here for more on Revels or Welcome Yule, or watch the video below. There are Revels celebrations in a number of major US cities, and I suspect many other communities besides ours hold Welcome Yule nights, especially if many residents have northern European ancestry.