Keeping Tradition Alive At Christmas

Radio 2 goes on a journey to celebrate local voices and different carolling traditions around England and Wales. Across the country, pockets of people have been keeping alive Christmas traditions that were lost to most hundreds of years ago. This Christmas, they're inviting you to step into their homes, pubs and churches, to share their festive sounds.




Hark, Hark! the carollers are coming. In the month before Christmas the village pubs of small towns around Sheffield are packed with the merrymaking of enthusiastic singers. Sheffield-born folk singer Kate Rusby invites you to come out of the cold and warm yourself by the fire as you eavesdrop on a centuries-old tradition of secular Christmas carols, songs and lyrics that locals - including multiple Radio 2 Folk Award-winner Eliza Carthy - fiercely claim as their own.


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Tonight Billy Bragg, a folk singer fascinated by identity and Englishness, reveals West Country Christmas traditions. He finds voices which can be heard on cold December Sundays in Padstow, as locals go from street to street singing the Cornish Curls they have proudly nurtured. He also hears from fellow folk musicians John Kirkpatrick and the young singer Jim Causley, who tells him more about the historical wassailing tradition in his village of Whimple, East Devon.



In part three, the Gaelic folk singer Julie Fowlis discovers ancient Welsh traditions. In tiny villages dotted across North Wales there's a local Christmas tradition that will transport you over the hills, into the valleys, and back in time. In a hushed church Plygain singers step forward to present the Christmas hymn that has been in their family for generations, the unaccompanied sound of small Welsh choirs echoing in the stillness of the service.


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The final episode ends with a good old knees-up, as Bellowhead's Jon Boden heads to Leigh-on-Sea where Christmas revellers have introduced their own carolling tradition to welcome Yuletide. Borrowing a lyric here and a melody there, reviving old instruments to play their songs, a group of carollers, musicians, folk fans and storytellers are meeting up to celebrate Christmas the old fashioned way.