Join Lymm Festival for an online Poem-A-Day celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas – 25th December to 5th January
Although the 12 Days have passed: these will remain available for some time, for you to look at again at your leisure
Even the most unusual of Christmases offers moments of rejoicing and celebration. But a different Christmas calls for different celebrations. . .
Join Father Michael Burgess and David Smith for a selection of Christmas poetry, specially chosen to celebrate Christmas 2020. The poems will be recited at 1pm each day (25th December – 5th January) on this webpage, on Facebook (click here), and on Youtube (click here). The poems will then remain available to watch at your leisure.
A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore
Today’s poem was first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, though some argue it may actually have been written by Henry Livingston Jr. Better known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’ from its opening line, it is credited with popularizing several of the features associated with Santa Clause today, ideas of whom had previously varied considerably.
Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Today’s poem was written during the American Civil War and later became the basis for the carol ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’. Longfellow listens to the church bells on Christmas Day and is uneasy at the contrast between their message of peace and the civil unrest that surrounds him. Ultimately, however, he draws comfort from the sound and believes once again that peace can prevail. We hope you too have found hope and comfort in the ending of a difficult year.
Love Came Down At Christmas by Christina Rossetti
A simple yet sincere poem establishing love as the centre of Christmas. It was first published without a title in 1885 and later included in the collection Verses in 1893 under the title “Christmastide”. Its simple structure lends itself well to music and it has been set as a Christmas carol by many composers.
Christmas at Sea by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published a few years after the success of ‘Treasure Island’, Stevenson’s poem vividly contrasts a life-and-death struggle at sea with a cosy family Christmas on land. As the danger passes and the ship sets off, the speaker is left with an awareness of his own mortality and a longing for the family left behind. A poem in solidarity with all those who have been separated this Christmas.
Eddi’s Service by Rudyard Kipling
Stormy weather keeps the parishioners from Eddi’s midnight mass, but the faithful priest proceeds regardless. He is joined by an ox, a symbol of the first Christmas, and an ass, a symbol of the Palm Sunday ride into Jerusalem. Though the poem is a fiction, Eddi (‘Eddius Stephanus) was a real priest and author of ‘Life of Saint Wilfred’, one of the first Anglo-Saxon histories.
The Oxen by Thomas Hardy
One of Hardy’s best-loved poems, ‘The Oxen’ relates to a West Country legend that farm animals kneel in homage on Christmas Day, as they once did at the manger. Though he believed the tale in his youth, Hardy fears now that few would. The poem describes a yearning for childhood beliefs and, perhaps, for a time before the war when people were not so disillusioned.
Ring Out Wild Bells by Alfred Lord Tennyson
It is an English custom that, on New Year’s Eve, the church bells ‘ring out’ the old year and ‘ring in’ the new. Tennyson hears their chimes and reflects on all that he hopes can come to an end – and all he hopes is still to come. This poem forms part of ‘In Memoriam’, a poetical requiem written after the death of Tennyson’s close friend Arthur Hallam.
Lymm Festival wishes you all the best for a much-needed new year ❤️
The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy
Hardy walks alone at the turn of the century and sees his own bleak outlook reflected in the wintry landscape. He hears a thrush singing and wonders what unknown hope causes the bird to sing so joyfully in such barren surroundings.
The Huron Carol by Jean de Brebeuf (trans. Jesse Edgar Middleton)
Today’s poem, considered Canada’s oldest Christmas hymn, was written by a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, the first European settlement in what is now the province of Ontario. It was written in the native language of the Huron people and trades the traditional Nativity story for Huron religious imagery. It demonstrates the ubiquity of, and diversity within, the Christmas story across different cultures and countries
Watch the poem here at 1pm on 2nd January.
Minstrels by William Wordsworth
Wordsworth stands at his door one Christmas and listens to the musicians who have come calling. The poem relates to a widespread rural tradition of village musicians visiting door-to-door at Christmas, bringing the residents good wishes and musical entertainment.
Watch the poem here at 1pm on 3rd January.
A Christmas Carol by Sara Teasdale
American poet Sara Teasdale recounts the much-loved Nativity story.
Watch the poem here at 1pm on 4th January.
To Mrs K on her Sending me an English Christmas Plum Cake
by Helen Maria Williams
Our final poetry reading is for all those separated from home and family this season, who have relied on packages and post to share Christmas with loved ones. Though British by birth, Williams spent much of her adult life living in Paris. This poem describes her delight upon receiving a parcel from England and all the warm memories of home, family and English tradition it awakened in her.
Watch the poem here at 1pm on 5th January.
IN DAYS GONE BY – Twelfth Night was a big time of Celebration. This dated back to Medieval and Tudor times when Twelfth Night marked the end of ‘winter’ which had started on 31st October with All Hallows Eve (Halloween).
At the start of Twelfth Night the Twelfth Night cake was eaten. This was a rich cake made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices.
The Lord of Misrule led the celebrations and was dressed like a King. This tradition goes back to the Roman celebrations of Saturnalia.