In case it’s escaped your attention, Christmas is coming and the Goose is getting…well, packed with revellers. Maybe you’re meh about mince pies, cheesed off by carol singing, narked at the nativities and sick of St Nick. So jack in the jingle bells and read on for some of Worthing and Adur’s more unusual yuletide traditions.
Dating all the way back to the 15th century, the term ‘wassailing’ comes from the Old English term ‘waes hael’ meaning ‘be well’, or in modern day parlance, ‘get smashed’. Wassailers wander the streets with a bowl full of spiced honey booze, and entice little-suspecting locals to take a drink, usually accompanied by a hale and hearty greeting of ‘wassail’. Any resemblance to Worthing town centre on a Saturday night leading up to Christmas is purely coincidental. If you fancy giving it a go, rock up to the annual Tarring Wassail on the High Street on Saturday 5th January at 8pm with your ‘loving cup’. Bowl optional.
Once you’re all wassailed out, it’s time to move on to mumming, or as it’s known in Sussex, tipteering. This was another excuse for gangs of young single men to go from pub to pub, fuelled by liberal amounts of cider and pork pies and sporting ribbons and masks. They would offer to entertain people by singing, dancing or putting on a deranged play featuring characters such as Billy Twing Twang and dodgy potions by the name of Golden Loosey Drops (something many of you may have suffered from after an excess of cider punch). This was what passed for entertainment in the days before the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special. Unsurprisingly, that beacon of tolerance Henry VII decided to put a stop to mumming by sending anyone caught wearing a mask to prison. Catch the Sompting Tipteerers performing their traditional Mummers’ Play at 11am on Boxing Day in Findon at the Black Horse, or at noon on New Year’s Day at the Richard Cobden in Worthing.
If you’re short on things to do on Christmas Eve (and unlike me won’t be frantically plagiarising presents from The Big Man himself to fill the until-that-evening-forgotten Christmas Eve box), how about dragging in a damp log from Whitebeam Woods? Liberally dowse said log with your finest Rioja, festoon it with left-over wrapping ribbons and then set fire to it. This will apparently bring you good luck for the coming year (but only if it burns through to Twelfth Night). I say it’s a waste of perfectly good wine.
It’s baffling to try and figure out who thought that a bracing dip in the Solent would be an excellent way to celebrate Christmas, but nonetheless it’s become the done thing on beaches from Brighton to Bognor. Head down to the beach on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day but for goodness’ sake bring a wetsuit.