It seemed like a good idea at the time. A pre-Christmas adventure with my six-year-old daughter to find sprigs of holly for decorating our house. The sun was shining, there was a delightful dusting of frost on the ground, and catchy lines from carols kept popping into my head. I was sure my little girl, already feverishly excited by the imminent arrival of Father Christmas, would love this old-fashioned seasonal pursuit.
Gathering attractively shaped boughs of holly, with their clusters of red berries, was a Christmas Eve pastime I had always enjoyed sharing with my dad. What could be better than continuing the tradition with the next generation?
It was only as my daughter and I rounded the corner onto the footpath at the end of our village to be met with an icy blast of wind that I began to have doubts. The sun, which had been shining brightly when we left the house, was suddenly nowhere to be seen, and it had begun to snow.
I optimistically imagined that the addition of snowflakes to our holly hunt would be the icing on the Christmas cake, but the sound of my small companion’s teeth chattering soon put paid to that idea.
Before long, she was asking when we were heading home, but in that stubborn dad-on-a-mission way, I insisted we plough forward. It was only after half-a-mile’s fruitless trudging head-first into the ice-cold wind, with not one red berry to be seen, that I finally admitted defeat and we turned back, arriving home empty-handed and somewhat blue in the face.
Feeling rather a failure, the next day I braved the crowds and picked up the last remaining boughs of holly from Skipton market.
In Haworth, the gathering of holly for Christmas decoration is known as scroggling – a wonderful term that deserves wider use (according to Arnold Kellett’s Yorkshire Dictionary, “scroggin’” – without the “l” – means gathering). Scroggling the Holly marks the start of Christmas festivities in the Brontë Country village and it has become such a popular event that crowds are drawn from far and wide.
In this Christmas edition of Dalesman, Helen Johnson visits Haworth and tries her hand at scroggling.
For many regular readers, the Christmas Dalesman is as much of a Yorkshire yuletide tradition as scroggling for holly, and we’ve collected a seasonal selection of articles and stories to put you in the festive mood.
In this month’s magazine, you’ll find the heart-warming story of a baby born on Christmas Day fifty years ago, meet the man whose Christmas light displays have become legendary in the village of Bagby, near Thirsk, and learn the art of making stained glass.
A very happy Yorkshire Christmas to you all!
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Scroggling the holly
Helen Johnson visits the Brontë Country village with a curious Christmas tradition
A christmas surprise
Janice Osborne recalls a memorable Yuletide fifty years ago
Ancient art with modern appeal
Andrew Gallon visits the studio of a stained glass maker
Traditional Yorkshire food
Peter Brears on the Christmas Eve feast
A sprinkling of fairy dust
Helen Johnson enters the magical world of the fairy makers
By ’eck, it were grand
Six months on, Chris Bye reflects on one of Yorkshire’s proudest moments – the Grand Départ
A ‘Yorksher’ Christmas Carol
John Walker’s unique take on the Dickens classic
Helen Johnson meets the Bagby man whose Christmas lights have attracted the attention of Hollywood
And the band began to play…
Tony Greenbank visits a brass band in the heart of the Dales
In a manner of speykin’
Gervase Phinn gets his tongue around the problems of pronunciation
A Victorian Dales christmas
Colin Speakman discovers how the Dales partied 150 years ago
Returning nature to the fells
Sebastian Oake meets ecologists looking to reintroduce wildlife to the Pennines