Old Cornwall Christmas Cards
22. Newlyn Card
Christmas Customs At Newlyn
By J Kelynack, Old Cornwall Jornal Vol. 5 No. 10
As far back as I can remember, I with all the other members of our family had a special bun, made in the shape of a bird, to eat on Christmas Eve. My mother and her brothers, and their parents, uncles and aunts had always done the same. My great-grandparents, when the Christmas saffron cake was being made, used to pick out pieces of the dough, make them into this bird-shape and bake them. Then each member of the family were given one and the Dilly Carol was sung. My sister gave such Christmas buns to her children and my niece, who live with me says, "Yes I remember the lovely bird".
Note from "Canow Kernow" published by the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies 1966.
" It is impossible here even to summarise all that has been written about the Dily Song or to compare its many versions. It seems to have pagan as well as Christian roots, in the mysterious Dilly Bird, the twins who may be Castor and Pollux, and the Ferryman who may be Charon (though Mr Piggott thinks the reference here is to a Cornish game). These generally stand side by side with the Three Magi (strangers), Four Evangalists and Twelve Apostles. The Eleven are said to refer to the eleven thousand virgins who set sail for France with St Ursula, a legendary Cornish Princess, and were massacred by the Huns at Cologne where adverse winds had driven them.
It has been suggested that the song was an early form of catechism, perhaps druidical in origin, that has become adapted by the early Christians and spread throughout Europe possibly be Celtic Misionaries. There are versions in Breton, French, German, Flemish, Hebrew, Greek and Latin.
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