R is for Reindeer – the history interpreter’s historical advent calender + Christmas wreaths and carols

Yesterday made a pilgrimage to Cotehele to see their famous Christmas garland. These are truly impressive. This year’s is sixty foot long and contains 30,000 dried flowers. It is subtly pretty rather than traditional red, green and gold and is therefore more like historical garlands. Cotehele, being basically seventeenth century and ‘homely’ is one of my favourite National Trust properties.

16 Dec 2012 Cotehele Garland 1

We then moved on to a carol service on Dartmoor. A chapel, built in 1833, that was seriously in the middle of nowhere. Brilliant service and really rousing singing, aided by the presence of the Widdecombe singers. They sang the traditional Widdecombe carol or curl (see carols in one of my earlier entries).


The use of reindeer to pull Santa’s sleigh has its origins in a Finnish legend that says Old Man Winter brings his reindeer down from the mountains as the first snows of winter appear. The names of eight of the reindeer come from the poem by Clement C Moore, now known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’ but originally called ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’. The ninth reindeer, Rudolph, was created by Robert L. May who wrote a poem in 1939 about the teased and bullied reindeer. The song about Rudolph was written in 1949 by Johnny Marks. Various films since have included additional reindeer, often descendants of the original nine.


Legend has it that a robin relieved Christ’s suffering in the cross. Victorian postmen were known as robins because their uniforms were red. Early Christmas cards often showed robins delivering the cards.

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