A little late in writing this up, but then Christmas got in the way. About a week ago we headed over to York for the Yule Riding procession around the city. This is a recreation of a 16th century midwinter tradition bringing colour, music and pageantry to the longest night and today organised by The York Waits.
The original Tudor procession had seen the characters of Yule and his wife riding through the streets of the city accompanied by loud music and throwing nuts into the crowds. This was banned in 1572, though other seasonal rituals continued. One of these was the Yoole-girthol where the city sheriffs would welcome in the feast of Yule and proclaim to the crowds that certain misdemeanours were allowed during the twelve days.
We hadn't been to the Yule Riding for a couple of years and so it was lovely to see that the crowds following the procession had grown enormously in the meantime with many people making a special trip to the city to be part of it.
As well as the York Waits themselves, there were also many city officials in their livery and carrying halberds, bows and lanterns. The procession set off from Micklegate Bar to the rousing music of shawms, sackbut and drum, impossible not to fall in step with and so the whole crowd makes good progress marching through the streets.
It really is a great way to see this historic city, as the procession visits most of the historic entrances for the proclamations, as well as the market and the east end of the Minster. The route also passes along some often overlooked roads and its great to see families hanging out from windows to see the musicians go past. One of my favourite parts of the experience is the change in sound as the procession turns from wide street into a narrow alley.
At the various stops, a horn is blown and a different civic official reads out the traditional proclamation, some rather nervously, and some with great theatricality, often embellishing the words.
"Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! We command that the peace of our lady the Queen be well kept by night and day but that all manner of whores, thieves, dice players and other unthrifty folk be welcome to the city, whether they come late or early, at the reverence of the High Feast of Yule till the Twelve Days be past. God save the Queen!"
The procession eventually ends up on the steps of York's Mansion House where the York Waits, accompanied by Deborah Catterall perform Gaudete to conclude the procession. Here's a snippet.
It really is a great recreation of a centuries old tradition and an inspiring contrast to our midsummer Minstrels procession in Chester. We'd highly recommend you make a trip to catch the Yule Riding next winter solstice.