According to one 19th-century historian, almost exactly 1,500 years ago, in AD 521, King Arthur and his retinue celebrated Christmas in the city of York.
This was ‘not by holy conversion and devout exercises,’ as he wrote reprovingly, ‘but in the spirit of heathen revelry; with feasting and mirth; in wantonness and many excesses… This was the first ever Christmas festival held in Britain.’
If this is true then York is the original Christmas city. If not, then York has still witnessed two millennia of mid-winter festivities in the guises of solstice, saturnalia and yule, and of course Christmas!
Now Blue Badge tourist guide Sarah Cowling is hosting a 90-minute walking tour around the illuminated streets, revealing all of York’s festive secrets.
Sarah said: “Is York really England’s most Christmassy city? Is it true that it held the first-ever Christmas celebrations almost 1,500 years ago in 521 AD?
“We’ll discover where Rudolph got his red nose from, and which grinch tried to cancel Christmas. See where a famous author read his stories in York – and made us a present of Boxing Day.”
The walk will observe government guidelines.
“It’s a great way to stay safe, outdoors and socially distanced whilst hearing tales of Christmases past and looking forward to a much brighter future. Plus, who knows? – we might even pass a takeaway mulled wine stand!”
- Each walk costs £12 per person and departs from the Statue of Constantine, Minster Yard.
- The walks run from 3rd to 24th December. See the York Christmas Walking Tour website for times.