Every 21st December, a combination of two ancient ceremonies takes place in York. A wonderful opportunity to time-travel back to Tudor times,  as liveried musicians march through the city in a torchlit procession. Often stumbled upon by locals and visitors alike, who wonder what on earth is going on! Knowing the roots of this centuries old tradition, does not,  unfortunately,  make it any more obvious what is happening.

The first of the two ancient events was Yule Riding, an event unique to York.

It must have been quite a party.  We are told a man and a woman,  described as ‘Yule and Yule’s Wife’ carried cake and meat through the streets and threw nuts into the crowd. Unfortunately the ‘rude and barbarous behaviour’ was described as ‘indecent and very uncomely’ and it  attracted many letters of complaint. In 1572, Archbishop Edmund Grindal had enough and the event was banned.

The second ceremony is Yulegirthol. Here,  proclamations were made around the city by the city Sheriff accompanied by a horn blower. It  culminated in a speech outside the Mansion House welcoming to the city  “whores, thieves, dice players and other unthrifty folk”, but only for the period of the twelve days of Yule. The mayor and the sheriff then retired to  celebrate with venison pasties and pints of sherry!

So join the procession this St Thomas’s Day and transport yourself back to Tudor York. Check local information, but usually commences 6pm at Micklegate Bar.

Article contributed by Sarah Cowling, Yorkshire Blue Badge Guide – www.yorkchristmaswalkingtour.co.uk