Over the weekend, i was lucky enough to experience a couple of London’s Christmas traditions. And sometimes they came with a bit of jolt.
On Saturday, I lined up for the Family Christmas Carols at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a gloomy, dull day outside, but inside the Cathedral was awash in sparkly little girls with their flash running shoes. The choir sang a number of lovely carols and just hearing the organ and the voices fill the beautiful dome of the Cathedral gave me shivers.
In the midst of this light carolling, a strange figure appeared in the pulpit. The crowd was introduced to an oxen who related his experiences of being in the stables when the Holy Family came and borrowed his manger. It was a little incongruous and I asked a couple of veterans of the Carol Sing whether this was a traditional feature. It seems like this was the first time for the oxen to appear and give his version of the events that day. So a bit of a twist on tradition there.
And of course what is Christmas in London without the pantomime? The origins of British Pantomime or “Panto” as it is known date back to the middle ages, taking on board the traditions of the Italian “Commedia dell’ Arte, the Italian night scenes and British Music hall to produce an intrinsic art form that constantly adapted to survive up to the present day. Where else can Dad drink beer and children eat ice cream and boo the villians on stage?
I saw the production of Dick Whittington and his Cat – I must admit I was scratching my head at the story line, but it was all good fun with references to Boris Johnson, gangnam style and of course all the double entredres for the adults in the audience.
And the last but certainly not the least tradition with a twist and a little more cross dressing – Twelfth Night with Mark Rylance as Olivia. You must hop on a plane or do whatever it takes to see this masterful production. It is sublime.