Deck the Halls

The traditional greenery decorations are almost finished and will be on view in some of our houses from 26 December.  In the medieval house from North Cray, and in Bayleaf farmhouse there are enormous ‘kissing boughs’ hanging from the rafters, created from holly and ivy. In Tudor times the saying was that a larger amount of ivy than holly in the decorations meant that the wife of the household ‘wore the trousers’ –  because ivy was regarded as feminine, and holly masculine.

North Cray decoration prep 3

A section of the holly and ivy ‘kissing boughs’ hanging inside the building from North Cray.

In Tudor times a period of strict abstinence was observed during Advent, as in Lent, and Christmas began on Christmas Day for a period of twelve days, during which no work would be carried out.  To mark this fact, the spinning wheels and the ploughs would be bound with greenery to prevent them from being used, and the twelve days were given over to feasting and merrymaking.  In Bayleaf farmhouse, our spinning wheel is entwined with ivy (feminine) and the plough in the barn from Cowfold is bound with holly (masculine).

Ivy stripping 2

Jon, our Rural Life Interpreter, stripping ivy for our traditional greenery decorations.

There are also beautiful swags of holly and ivy in the house from Walderton and in Pendean Farmhouse where the yule log will burn in the hearth.

We cannot of course be certain of the exact nature of the traditional decorations the occupants of these buildings would have used, but having used such evidence as survives from the period we can surmise what might have been.  These decorations will remain in place until 2nd February, which is Candlemas, marking the end of the Christmas season in the church calendar.

Christmas is a wonderful time to visit the Museum and view our collection of houses, decorated to reflect how this special time of year has been celebrated by our ancestors over the centuries. Enjoy a warm Christmas welcome in the medieval house from North Cray, with a roaring log fire. Our volunteers will be serving spiced ale or apple juice, as well as cheese straws. Hot chestnuts will be for sale (£1 a bag) from the medieval shop from Horsham in the Market Square.

The Museum is open daily throughout the winter until 22 December from 10.30am-4pm (closed 23-25) and open for The Museum at Christmas’ from Boxing Day 26 to Monday 28 December 2015. The Museum is then open daily during the festive season until 1 January 2016.

We hope that you can join us at this wonderful time of year!