Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Christmas Tours’ Category

Tower Tours at Salisbury Cathedral are regarded as the ‘ultimate’ visitor experience. Led by one of our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides, you climb 332 steps in five stages to discover the hidden medieval structure that supports the amazing spire, see behind the scenes, hear the Cathedral’s history, and see the breathtaking views over Salisbury and beyond from 224 feet above ground level.
Salisbury Cathedral Guided ToursThis Christmas there are four ways to experience a tower tour at Salisbury Cathedral.
29 November – 24 December 2012

Daily from 29 November through to 24 December there are two options available to choose from:
Tower Tour 12.15pm (90 minutes tour) Climb to the base of the spire and see the views over the city and surrounding countryside whilst learning about the history of the Cathedral from a specialist guide. £10.00 per person (£8.00 seniors, students and children 7-17 years)
Tower Tour and Tea 2.15pm (please note there will be no Tower Tour and Tea on Sunday 2 December and Sunday 16 December) A shorter Tower Tour (60 minutes maximum) followed by tea in the Cathedral’s award-winning Refectory with Christmas cake/mince pies. £13.00 per person (£11.00 seniors, students and children 7-17 years)
Pre-book your place online at http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk or call 01722 555156.

Christmas Spire Special
And for six days, we are offering a Christmas Spire Special providing the opportunity to see Salisbury City’s Christmas Lights from above. Beginning at 4.30pm, visitors enjoy a guided tour of the Cathedral and Chapter House with Magna Carta before climbing 332 steps to the base of the Cathedral spire on a ‘Tower Tour Teaser’ *, finishing with either a 2-course supper or seasonal refreshments.
Saturday 8, Thursday 13 and Thursday 20 December – with 2 course supper £20.00 (ends 7.30pm)
Friday 7, Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 19 December – seasonal refreshments £13.00 (ends 7.00pm)
*alternatively move into the quire and experience the beauty and peace of Evensong sung by our superb Cathedral Choir. 

To book please call 01722 555120.

Tower Tours

Enjoy spectacular views as you explore the roof spaces and tower, climbing 332 steps in easy stages by narrow winding spiral staircases to reach the foot of the spire 225 feet above ground level. From here you can see up into the spire through the medieval scaffold, and from the outside you can look over the city and surrounding countryside.

Tower tours cost £10.00 for adults, £8.00 for children/seniors and £27.00 family (2 adults + 3 children) which includes a donation to the Cathedral. Scheduled tours run at least once a day for 11 months of the year (subject to daily conditions).
From Monday to Saturday, scheduled tours run between 1 -5 times a day all year round (see timetable below). There are two scheduled tours on Sundays between April – September.

http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk

Wessex Guided Tourswww.Histouries.co.uk
Mystical Landscape, Magical Tours

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The lights are up, Noddy Holder’s voice is ringing in your ears and you’ve already eaten all your advent chocolate in a gluttonous frenzy. Yes it’s Christmas; that time of year reserved for frantic last-minute shopping, burnt turkeys and half-drunk carols in the front room. It’s also the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth, of course: and even that bears more than a passing similarity to the ancient god Mithra.
So where did some of the Christmas traditions we take for granted actually come from? The truth stretches back a lot longer than you might think. Here are ten yuletide customs born in the ancient world.

1. Christmas Trees

Our Christmas Tree We might curse the fact that we’re still picking pine needles out of our toes come spring, but the idea of decorating your house with greenery at winter goes back thousands of years. King Tut may never have seen the multicoloured mess we put up with nowadays, but he would have had date palm leaves scattered around his royal abodes on the winter solstice.Evergreens were celebrated in Egypt as a reminder that, though the winter was harsh and yielded little, spring would come just as inevitably. The palm also spawned a shoot each month, meaning that by December (as it would become known) Egyptians weilded the leaves to show that the year was over. They’d have decorated with entire forests if they ever saw a European winter.

Soon Egypt’s tree-hugging tradition spread north to Italy, during the height of the Roman Empire. Palms were substituted for firs and other native species, on which tapers would be lit and burned in honour of Saturn, god of agriculture and justice, during the notoriously raucous Saturnalia festival. The custom migrated north to Germany and Scandinavia during the Middle Ages, resulting in today’s obsession.

2. Christmas Carols

 

Carol Singing Whether you enjoy strangers caterwauling on your doorstep or not, you can thank ancient pagans and their joyous celebrations of the stars. Song and dance were commonplace at the earliest stone circles of Europe: some think even Stonehenge was built with acoustics in mind.

As with the trees, special songs would be created for the winter solstice. In fact songs would be sung for each of the seasons, but the Christmas tradition stuck with the newly-created Christian faith, eager to commemorate Jesus Christ.

The first ‘proper’ Christmas carol can be dated back to ancient Rome in 129 AD, when a Roman bishop decreed that a song called ‘Angel’s Hymn’ should be sung during the Christmas service at Rome. Fast forward a few hundred years, and a Greek Orthodox Priest named Cosmas of Jerusalem (or Maiuma) wrote another famous hymn. Soon, the whole of Europe was singing at Christmas. Incidentally the tradition of singing to people whether they want to or not was invented some time around the 17th century. If someone had shown Cosmas he might not have bothered.

3. Santa 

 Santa ClausMillions of people still think Santa owes his current scarlet clobber to canny ad men at Coca-Cola. But it’s a belief that should have been consigned to the ‘urban myth’ bin many moons ago. The western world’s enduring image of a red-and-white-robed Santa owes more to his ancient ecclesiastical roots then a syrupy soft drink. Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, an Ancient Greek town of Lycia, modern Turkey, during the 4th century AD. Popular throughout the Christian world, he’s also known as ‘Nicholas the Wonderworker’ thanks to the large number of miracles attributed to him.

Nicholas’ association with the reindeer-propelled giver of gifts we all know today stems from his propensity for leaving coins in the shoes of those who gave to him (see stockings story below). This grew into a European Catholic tradition, whereby the poor would leave their shoes in church overnight. Coins would then be donated by rich patrons in a homage to Saint Nick’s generosity. Present-hungry kids also can thank Nicholas’ status as the patron saint of children when they’re maniacally tearing open a box of badly-rendered plastic rubbish.

 The name ‘Santa Claus’, incidentally, didn’t come until the 19th century, as an evolution of the Dutch colloquialism Sinterklass. His name may have changed, but Santa still kept the ceremonial red robes of his ancient forebear. However many think the clothing may be an amalgam of Saint Nicholas’ and those of the Norman god of misrule, a red-robed character who would go about causing havoc during the winter solstice period. Santa didn’t always use reindeer to power him from house to house, either: many believe they are an evolution of the eight-legged grey horse of the Norse god Odin called Sleipnir, who could leap huge distances. Middle Ages children would leave out food for Sleipnir, a custom which continues to this day.

 4. Yule Log

  Yule LogLike most things associated with Yule, a pagan festival largely attributed to the Germanic peoples of the medieval period, the yule loge can trace its roots back through some of the world’s most successful ancient civilisations. Today the burning of the yule log has become a marginalised affair, and can be carried out pretty much any time leading up to Christmas Day. Yet the log began its life as a yuletide tradition thousands of years back, in the earliest cities of Sumer and Egypt.

Egyptians believed that the winter solstice period marked the death and rebirth of their national god Horus, the god of the sky and the sun. Thus light was shed to celebrate him, and since Egypt was about 5,000 years from electricity a log would be burned for 12 days. This tradition carried into the cities of Sumer and Mesopotamia via the winter festival of Zagmuk, and would later become one of the features of the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, when a yule-style log was burned for ten days to usher in the strength of Mithra.

Saxons and Visigoths would latch onto the log as a symbol of good, or light prevailing over darkness, or evil. Ashes were prized for their supposed magical powers. Christians, most likely taking their lines from the Romans, would later adopt the log as a symbol for the light of Christ bringing the world from darkness.

5. Christmas Cards

 

Christmas cardsChristmas cards may only have come into European vogue during the 15th century (thanks to the Germans, again). But their origins go back thousands of years before, to the greetings given in Ancient Egypt via ornately decorated papyrus. Related or not, the ancient Chinese are thought to be some of the greetings card’s earliest fans, exchanging simple messages to celebrate the New Year.

The invention of printing, and the west’s popularising of card-giving, wouldn’t arrive for another 1,500 years or so. You might expect the Chinese, with their longstanding obsession with fireworks (and blowing things up in general) to have invented the Christmas cracker too. Not so: desperate London sweet-seller Tom Smith invented it as an explosive panacea to his ailing bonbon trade, in 1847.

6. Mistletoe

  When Tara from IT starts waving mistletoe at you from across the office fix023with one suggestive eye on the stationery cupboard, you can thank ancient pagans for the group email the next day. Druids, to be precise: the ancient mystics saw the herb as having magical powers thanks to its evergreenness. Amongst its miraculous characteristics – curing illness, countering poison etc – mistletoe was thought to enhance virility.

Kissing under the mistletoe may date all the way back to the ancient Greeks; no strangers to free lovin’. Traditionally, kissing beneath the magical mistletoe would ensure a couple stayed happy. It was even used as a sort of natural proposal, and hung at marital ceremonies. Saxons then took on the mantle, associating the plant with Freya, goddess of love, beauty and fertility. Men could kiss any woman who found herself beneath a sprig of mistletoe, plucking a berry with each kiss. When the berries had all gone, the kissing was over. One suspects mistletoe was never in short supply at Saxon parties.

7. Presents

  For retailers at least, Christmas is the biggest gift of all: whether we want Oxford Street Xmasto or not (boo to those in the latter category) we’ll all be trapsing the high street in search of something we can pass off as thoughtful, with more than half an eye on our wallets. Yet as much as the world hasn’t always been obsessed with Furbies, novelty ties and shaving kits, we’ve been giving and receiving gifts since the beginnings of society. Archaeologists have found evidence of personal decoration as far back as 70,000 years ago – and French anthropologist Marcel Israel Mauss establishes social bonds which establish respect and interdependence – key to social cohesion.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and gift-giving was a key part of Saturnalia, when masters would ceremoniously be ruled over by their slaves. Gifts were also seen as an important way to keep up good spirits during the long, cold winter. Of course Christians point to the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh given to baby Jesus by the three wise men, though it’s worlds away from the capitalist scrums of today. The idea of presents being stuffed down the chimney pot may also have derived from ancient times. Germanic tribes would throw gifts onto fires as sacrifices for the gods. Thankfully my slippers stayed flame-free last year.

8. Feasting

 It wouldn’t be Christmas without unholy doses of Turkey (or Goose, or Christmas Dinnernuts), bread sauce, potatoes and, of course, the only batch of Brussels sprouts you’ll eat all year. But, like most Christmas customs, feasting to see in the day has its roots in the earliest civilisations on the planet. The Mesopotamian festival of Zagmuk would traditionally involve great feasting, as the height of the winter ended, days became longer and farming could continue once more. Food was one way to usher in the sun, as was the case in Egypt with Horus – and later became part of the Saturnalia festival, a Roman middle-finger to the harsh European winter.

Goose had been used since ancient Egyptian times as the meat of choice for Winter Solsticers, a tradition which continued in Britain until the 16th century. Some credit Henry VIII with having introduced turkeys to our Christmas platters. The Spanish allegedly took on the turkey mantle from their conquered Aztec subjects, who had long domesticated the far juicier bird.

The Romans frequently ate Christmas ham, a custom still followed in many countries today, to celebrate the life of Adonis, god of rebirth and vegetation, who was killed by the tusks of a wild boar sent either by Artemis or Ares. A boar’s head is still roasted ceremonially each year at Oxford University. Though fruits, berries and spices had been used to make cakes in ancient times, the Christmas Pud we all know and love (and hate in equal measure) didn’t enter the annals of history until the 15th century.

9. Stockings

 There are no steadfast stories as to the origin of the Christmas stocking, Stockings for Allbut one apocryphal tale has stood the test of time, true or not. And unsurprisingly it comes courtesy of Saint Nicholas’ legendary generosity. A poor man in Myra lost his wife, and was left to bring up his three young daughters alone. He became poor, and worried that he would not have enough money to pay any of his daughters’ dowries, as was the custom back then.

Enter Saint Nick, who, knowing the father would be too proud to accept money for his daughters, surreptitiously threw coins into his house, beside the hearth over a few nights. The family were drying their clothes by the fire at the time, so each day each daughter would wake up to receive a coin in their shoe or stockings. Some stories even say Nicholas chucked coins down the chimney; another reason why we have Santa throwing presents down the chimney nowadays.

10. The Nativity

 Pushing the boundaries of ‘ancient’ somewhat, you can thank Saint Francis of Assisi for that heart-in-mouth moment you forgot your one and only line, ‘Sorry no room’, in front of over a hundred parents armed with cameras and pitiful expressions (or was that just me?). The famous Catholic deacon set up a living tableau in memory of Christ’s birth, using the accounts in the Gospels of Luke and John, in Greccio, near Rome, in 1223.

The tradition spread fast, leading to the annual humiliation of children that occurs in nearly every school in the western world, if not more. Catholics in Spain and Latin America also celebrate Las Posadas, a ritual re-enactment of the tribulations Mary and Joseph enduring before giving birth to Jesus. This can take place on any day from the 16th to the 24th of December.

Link: http://heritage-key.com

 Happy Christmas everyone………

The Best Tours during the Festive Period
HisTOURies UK – Magical Landscape, Mystical Tours

Read Full Post »

Each year, the beautiful area between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned visitor attraction, the Roman Baths, is transformed into a Christmas shopper’s haven – the Bath Christmas Market.  We are delighted to announce that the Bath Christmas Market is now running for an additional week – a total of 18 days! Dates for the Bath Christmas Market 2011 are 24th November – 11th December 2011. 
bath-christmas-market

Click here to view the opening times of the Christmas Market.

In the heart of Bath’s main shopping district, 129 traditional wooden chalets adorn the streets; each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food items – everything you will need for the perfect Christmas celebration. 

The World Heritage Site of Bath is one of England’s most beautiful places to visit, so why not make your visit to the Bath Christmas Market the focus of a private tour.  A populr itinereary from London is Stonehenge, Lacock Village in the Cotswolds and Bath.  We can also arrange tours from Bath os Salisbury.

Bespoke private guided sightseeing tours of Britain
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

Read Full Post »

Mid-winter festivals were observed in Britain long before Christianity reached our shores. In ancient Britain, the Winter Solstice (near December 22) was seen as a turning point in the cold dark months. Rituals were held to encourage the return of the sun and banish evil spirits believed to lurk in the bleakest days. On the last day of winter, called Yule, a huge log was added to a bonfire and people gathered round to summon the sun by singing and dancing. Houses were decorated with green plants, particularly mistletoe and holly, as a symbol of fertility and rebirth the new season would bring.
Victorian Christmas Celebration

Saturnalia, a very popular Roman festival, was held in mid-December. It was celebrated in countries across the Empire, including Britain which was occupied by the Romans from 43 to the early part of the fifth century. The week long party was held in honour of the Roman God Saturn. Revellers enjoyed feasting, visiting family and sharing gifts. The festival offered temporary social freedom for slaves who were excused from work and allowed privileges, such as the right to gamble.

In 596, St. Augustine undertook a mission to bring Christianity to the Anglo Saxons. He and his monks introduced the Christian calendar to Britain, including the Christmas date. The Christian church decreed Christ’s birthday be celebrated on December 25, a decision made by the Pope in 336. As Christianity spread across Britain, pagan celebrations were mainly engulfed by or assimilated in to Christmas ritual.

Varied Christmas activities were adopted across Britain.

In England, people ate frumenty (a type of porridge made from corn) on Christmas morning. The recipe changed over time and eggs, fruit, spice, lumps of meat and dried plums were added. The whole mixture was wrapped in a cloth and boiled. This is the origin of plum pudding.

Christmas festivities in Ireland last from Christmas Eve to the feast of the Epiphany on 6th January, which is referred to as Little Christmas. Many Irish women bake a seed cake for each person in the house. It is also Irish tradition to bake three puddings, one for each key day of the Epiphany – Christmas, New Year’s Day and the Twelfth Night.

In Scotland, Christmas has traditionally been celebrated very quietly because the Presbyterian Church places no great emphasis on the date. The season is however enjoyed by many Scots. A popular Scottish festive party involved the building of big bonfires which people could gather round for warmth, dancing and to play bagpipes. A time-honoured Scottish Christmas treat is Bannock cakes made of oatmeal.

In Wales, music was vital to the festive celebrations. Christmas morning between 3am and dawn men gathered at churches to sing carols until the cockerel crowed. This was called Plygrain.

Taffy making on Christmas Eve was one of the most important festive traditions of the Welsh. Taffy is a special kind of chewy toffee made from brown sugar and butter. It is boiled and then pulled until it becomes lovely and glossy.

Britain today is home to many different cultures and mid-winter is, as it always has been, a time for diverse cultural celebration.

Thankyou for all your Christmas wishes.  Have a wonderful Christmas from all the Histouries UK team.

External Links:
http://www.welcome2london.org.uk/christmas-xmas-festive-new-year-london-tours-uk.htm
http://www.visitlondon.com/events/christmas/
http://www.christmasinlondon.net/

British Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

Read Full Post »

Us Brits love Christmas. Our ancient streets come alive as thousands of shoppers and party-goers make their way past carol singers and chestnut vendors under a canopy of shimmering festive lights. The shops are overflowing with gifts, decorations and delicious food, and there are thousands of seasonal events from carol services to wild parties as the holiday spirit takes hold

Why is England a good place to visit at Christmas time?
Christmas is Britain’s most popular holiday and is characterised by traditions that date back hundreds of years. Many Christmas customs that originated in Britain have been adopted in the United States. There is nothing more magical than wandering through a British garden on a crisp, clear winter day: the sun, low in the sky, sparkling on elegant branches; the satisfying crunch of early morning frost underfoot; the delicate scent of winter-flowering shrubs. Holly berries bring a splash of colour to the festive season. Shortly after New Year, snowdrops poke their heads through the earth. Hints of spring arrive in late February as buds begin to appear on trees and the petals of early daffodils unfold.

Bath Christmas Market

Bath Christmas Market

 

1. Christmas Traditions • Pantomimes • Crackers • Dinner • Decorations • Mistletoe
2. Father Christmas
3. Queens Speech
4. Boxing Day

1: (Pantomines) In the UK, the word ‘Pantomine’ means a form of entertainment, generally performed during the Christmas season. Most cities throughout UK have a form of pantomine at this time of year. The origins of British pantomine, or ‘Panto’ as they are know as today, date back to the middle ages. Panto is generally aimed at children however adults from all ages thoughly enjoy this show. Pantos are based on childrens fairy tales and legends (Aladdin, Cinderalla, Jack and the Bean Stalk). It is traditional for the audience to join in with the panto – cheering the hero or heroine and hissing at the villains. Many phrases to be learnt before seeing a panto are “He’s behind you!” and “Oh yes he is!”, although this may seem strange to be reading all will become clear when watching a British pantomine.
(Cracker) The pulling of Christmas crackers often accompanies food on Christmas Day. Invented by a London baker in 1846, a cracker is a brightly coloured paper tube, twisted at both ends, which contains a party hat, riddle and toy or other trinket. When it is pulled by two people it gives out a crack as its contents are dispersed.
(Dinner) Christmas Day sees the opening of presents and many families attend Christmas services at church. Christmas dinner consists traditionally of a roast turkey, goose or chicken with stuffing and roast potatoes. This is followed by mince pies and Christmas pudding flaming with brandy, which might contain coins or lucky charms for children. (The pudding is usually prepared weeks beforehand and is customarily stirred by each member of the family as a wish is made.) Later in the day, a Christmas cake may be served – a rich baked fruit cake with marzipan, icing and sugar frosting.
(Decorations) Christmas decorations in general have early origins. Holly, ivy and mistletoe are associated with rituals going back beyond the Dark Ages. (The custom of kissing beneath a sprig of mistletoe is derived from an ancient pagan tradition.) The Christmas tree was popularised by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who introduced one to the Royal Household in 1840. Since 1947, the country of Norway has presented Britain annually with a large Christmas tree which stands in Trafalgar Square in commemoration of Anglo-Norwegian cooperation during the Second World War.
(Mistletoe) Mistletoe, considered sacred by the British Druids, was believed to have many miraculous powers. Among the Romans, it was symbol of peace, and, it was said that when enemies met under it, they discarded their arms and declared a truce. From this comes our custom of kissing under the mistletoe. England was the first country to use it during the Christmas season. 2.
2. (Father Christmas) The English gift giver is called Father Christmas. He wears a long red or green robe, and leaves presents in stockings on Christmas Eve. However, the gifts are not usually opened until the following afternoon. Father Christmas delivers them during the night before Christmas. The Children leave an empty stocking or pillowcase hanging at the end of the bed. In the morning they hope it will be full of presents.
3. (Queens Speech) Another traditional feature of Christmas afternoon is the Queen’s Christmas Message to the nation, broadcast on radio and television. This normally occurs in the mid afternoon after most people have eaten their Christmas Dinner. The Queen summaries the events of the year past and looks to the future. 4. (Boxing Day) Christmas day is followed by Boxing day (26th December). which takes its name from a former custom of giving a Christmas Box – a gift of money or food inside a box – to the deliverymen and trades people who called regularly during the year. This tradition survives in the custom of tipping the milkman, postman, dustmen and other callers of good service at Christmas time normally on the run up to Christmas.

A Christmas Market Christmas Markets are loved by everyone – the little wooden chalets selling all sorts of goodies and the magical atmosphere created by special Christmas fragrances of pine branches and incense and of course the hot mulled wine to keep you warm! The stalls filled with wooden smoking men, Christmas pyramids, music boxes, straw stars, angels and all manner of wooden decorations. Then you have the stalls with the lebkuchen, stollen and fresh sugared almonds – tempting you with Christmas aromas. Friends and family meet up to enjoy the day together and everyone gets absorbed in the excitement of Christmas.

Bath Christmas Market – A very traditional style English Christmas Market will be runnning every day from December 2nd – 11th selling a a wide variety of original hand crafted gifts, decorations, cards and toys. With the famous Bath Abbey and Roman Baths providing an amazing backdrop to this event, you will know that the festive season has really arrived in Bath. You will have plenty of time on tour for some Christmas shopping!
Windsor Christmas Market – A traditional German market which will be running throughout December. There will be individual wooden chalets each offering a variety of hand-made goods or sumptuous fare! Perfect for Christmas shopping!

More historical Chrismas facts coming soon. 
External Links:
Welcome2London – Christmas in the Capital

Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours at Christmas time

Read Full Post »

With the market as the highlight, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath is fast becoming known as ‘the Christmas City’.

Each year, the beautiful area between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned visitor attraction, the Roman Baths, is transformed into a Christmas shopper’s haven – the Bath Christmas Market.  Theyare delighted to announce that the Bath Christmas Market will run for an additional 7 days this year – a total of 18 days!  Dates for the Bath Christmas Market 2010 are 25th November – 12th December 2010. 

In the heart of Bath’s main shopping district, 123 traditional wooden chalets adorn the streets; each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food items – everything you will need for the perfect Christmas celebration. 

The sound of carols echoing around the Abbey creates an extra special atmosphere at the Bath Christmas Market.  This is complimented by a full programme of entertainment at the event – carol singers, children’s entertainers and musicians that add to the festive ambience. 

View of Main Square  View of chalets and Bath Abbey

View of chalets and Bath Abbey  View of chalets and shoppers 

View of Main Square and Roman Baths   View of Main Square and Bath Abbey

View of Main Square and Roman Baths  View of Main Square and Bath Abbey

 Its a great time of year to explore Bath, join a coach tour from London or organise a private guided tour (from London, Salisbury or Bath)

If you can stay a night or two.  Click here for discount Hotels in Bath

Bath Toursit Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: