While we can’t guarantee snow on the ground, we can promise festive fun is in the air at Whitby Christmas Festival, Friday 16th, Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th November. 
 
Have your Christmas stockings ready from 5pm from Friday 16th when this much-loved annual event begins. 
 
Taking place in the Front Marina Car Park overlooking the harbour and with Whitby Abbey in full view, there will be three days of stalls, the Lantern Parade, a spectacular fireworks display and a visit from Santa himself. 
 
 
Supported by Whitby Town Council, Scarborough Borough Council, the North York Moors National Park and Welcome to Yorkshire, we always look forward to it and the kids love the lights, smells and sounds they experience. 
 
It got us wondering, though, about how Christmas was celebrated by Yorkshire folk in the past? What traditions were marked at this special time of year? 
 
Well, we discovered the Romans did do a lot for us, particularly when it came to our county’s capital, York. 
 
For the Roman culture, the Saturnalia Festival was very important and took place from 17th to 25th December. The festivities gave thanks to Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture and harvest. 
 
During this period, the Roman rules were relaxed: courts were suspended, singing in the streets was allowed and masters and mistresses waited on their servants. 
 
Other Christmas influences include those from the Anglo Saxons and the Vikings with the marking of the Winter Solstice on 21st December. 
 
Sometimes referred to as Yule celebrations, the historic Yuletide still has influence today as it was held for twelve days from the shortest day. 
 
Also, William the Conqueror declared himself King of England following the Norman Conquest on Christmas Day in 1066. 
 
Yet as you buy your Christmas turkey, and tuck into its succulent flesh on 25th December, have you ever wondered how this large poultry bird came to be associated with the festive period? 
 
It turns out we’ve probably got a Yorkshire man to thank for this! 
 
William Strickland, an explorer from Marske (just up the Coast from us) brought home turkeys for the first time in 1526. His estates were located in Ryedale and near Bridlington (parts of which still exist today) and were built on the profits of this majestic bird. In fact the family crest is in the shape of a turkey. 
 
Following Strickland’s death in 1598, tucking into turkey on Christmas Day really took off during the Victorian period. 
 
Sticking with the food theme, if you love a slice of cheese with your Christmas cake, then this is a Yorkshire culinary tradition, dating back to around the 1890s. 
 
Of course, Boxing Day also has its customs here in Yorkshire. In Scarborough, there is a football match between the fishermen and fireman of the town and further down the coast at Flamborough, a sword dance takes place in celebration of its fishing heritage. 
 
So while we love Whitby Christmas Festival, we also see it as a lovely preamble to Christmas itself. And we can’t wait to dig out the winter woollies and hang up the mistletoe ready for the festive period! 
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