Mudcat Café message #2205780 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #106626   Message #2205780
Posted By: Anne Lister
30-Nov-07 - 04:48 PM
Thread Name: Songs for the Winter Solstice
Subject: RE: Songs for the Winter Solstice
Les, if a tradition is oral it means it's passed down from person to person, and not written down. This is why you are unlikely to get evidence "based in history", whatever that means. Yes, it means (sadly) that a lot of people make a lot of claims which may not be substantiated and maybe shouldn't be, but a lot of what you might like to see in printed form will simply not be there.

What I mean by the "mythic child born at midwinter" is, quite simply, that there are numerous myths involving a child born at midwinter. There is of course the Mithraic tale, which has given rise to a lot of Christian imagery, and Greek myths involving Perseus, but there are also tales (in the case of the ones I'm thinking of, tales in the oral tradition kept alive in my friend's family - not in print) of King Arthur. These aren't the only ones but they're the ones which spring readily to mind on a cold damp Friday evening after a hard week. It means specifically, in my friend's case, that she's more than happy to sing any song referring to the midwinter child and sees no conflict with her own traditions. Now, as a lot of the Christmas story is known not to be true, hard history but a lot of mythic elements joined together to make a good tale I see no reason (or evidence based in history)to think that the many songs we associate with Christmas MUST be talking about the Christian celebration.

I have absolutely no point of view on the origins of Morris, so that's a bit of a red herring. Older traditions which WERE taken on by the Christians include bringing in greenery to decorate the houses, the use of holly specifically, the Yule log and the whole jollity aspect. My evidence for this? You could start with the way much of this was frowned on by the Puritans who based their practices on a more literal study of the bible.

Try googling "the true date of Christmas" for an assortment of opinions on when Jesus was *really* born, and for a collection of dates (I'm assuming at least some of them are facts)on which various older traditions became associated with the Christian celebration of the birth - which came quite some time after the establishment of the early church.

But by all means hang on to your factoids, if that makes you feel happier. There's no way I know to prove the age of a traditional story (or song - or custom) - all you can ever do is prove the earliest time it appeared in print, or was recorded as having taken place. Which doesn't necessarily get you very far.

Anne