Puddings, wishes and kisses at Sherwood
The Sheriff of Nottingham himself explains the origins of two festive traditions we’ll be celebrating this Christmas at RSPB Sherwood Forest.
Here at Sherwood, we love our legends of Robin Hood and we also love traditions like Stir-up Sunday, which takes place on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 November.
Stir-up Sunday is a custom that harks back hundreds of years when families would gather together to stir the Christmas pudding five weeks before the big day.
The opening words of the Book Of Common Prayer, used on the last Sunday before Advent (which this year starts on Sunday 28 November), read: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people,” so the tradition stands that this is the day to get stirring.
This year, we’ll be stirring up puddings for the birds in your garden, to keep them fed through the cold winter months.
It’s also the day when wishes are said to come true, and if you visit Sherwood on Stir-Up Sunday, you can stir the pudding mix that the Sheriff is preparing at our mighty Major Oak and make a Christmas wish.
The Sheriff’s wish is that the only Robin he sees this Christmas is the little robin red breast!
As the home of mysteries and legends, Sherwood Forest is also proud to support Mistletoe Day on 1st December, an official day of celebration for another ancient tradition, which was only formally declared by Parliament in 2005.
Mistletoe has formed part of festive merry-making for centuries, long before the days of Robin Hood.
A plant that grows on range of trees including willow, apple and oak trees, its name derives from two Anglo Saxon words: ‘mistel’, which means dung, and ‘tan’, which means twig or stick.
So, you could translate Mistletoe as ‘poo on a stick’! Not exactly romantic, is it?
The Romans used mistletoe, holly and ivy as part of their Saturnalia festival, marked by drinking and feasting. The same three plants would have been used to deck the halls of the medieval home in the bleak days of mid-winter.
It was sacred to the druids, while in Norse mythology mistletoe was known as the plant that caused the death of the God Balder, or Baldr.
The story has it that his mother Frog wept for her son and her tears formed the white berries of the mistletoe. She then kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree where it grew.
Many believe that the custom of kissing beneath the mistletoe comes from this ancient legend and that it may have come to England via Viking invaders.
And, who knows? Even Robin Hood and the fair Maid Marian may have kissed under the mistletoe.
This year, the Sheriff of Nottingham, known as (ahem) The Most Romantic Man in all England, has ordered a bough of holly ivy and mistletoe to be hung at the mighty Major Oak from 1st December.
So, will you come to Sherwood on this special day and share a kiss with your loved one underneath the mistletoe?