Most people realise that the way in which they celebrate Christmas now was largely developed by the Victorians, but also that there are aspects of it which descend directly from very important and very ancient pagan festivals. This talk is designed to explain when and how our familiar midwinter customs developed, and why. It will look at the origins of the rituals, the decorations, the pastimes and the characters that have come to be associated with the modern Christmas, and also at those we have lost from the previous two millennia. In the process it will suggest that the most ancient associations of all are perhaps those which we take most for granted, or regard as the most commercialised, today.

Speaker: Professor Ronald Hutton is a Professor of History at the University of Bristol. He is a leading authority on history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs.

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