Friday 11 December 2009

The Kissing Bough

As I don't have a photo of a Kissing Bough, you will have to make do with one of our river, taken on yesterday's walk . . . though I realize this is not QUITE the same . . .

In the Archers at the moment (long-running "soap" play on Radio 4 for those of you outside the UK), Joe Grundy is busy making Kissing Boughs and hoping to top up the Grundy coffers in time for Christmas!

Frank Muir wrote about them to, in his Christmas Customs and Traditions:

"In his book The English Festivals (London, 1947), the poet and glass-engraver Laurence Whistler has shown that in many parts of rural England there was an alternative to the Christmas tree called kissing bough. This was a spherical framework bound with box, rosemary or some other evergreen, inside which red apples dangled from coloured ribbons. Fixed to the strip of metal or osier that formed the circumference of the sphere were coloured candles. The whole thing was then hung up in a prominent place and mistletoe tied beneath it.

One year my family decided that a kissing bough might be more fun than our usual tree. Out came the pliers and the wire. Simple craftsmanship. As we did not grow either box or rosemary in the garden we chose pagan ivy. This we bound round the wire frame. Next came the seven apples suspended on red ribbons. So far no problem, but where to put it? The hall ceiling was too low to hand a four-foot, round, verdant football. The answer seemed to be to hang it above the staircase. This entailed climbing a ladder, chiselling the paint out of the joints on the outside of the window overlooking the stairs, and then pushing a five-foot length of wood through the gap between the bottom of the window and the frame. Inside, this piece of wood stuck ut over the stairs like a gibbet. Next we threw up some nylon washing line with a guaranteed breaking-strain of half a ton - essential for our kissing bough - and hauled the mighty structure up into position. With the aid of a step-ladder the candles were fixed on. The village shop had run out of the little red ones so we had to make do with the leftovers from last year's power cuts. It really looked rather Christmassy. I sent my wife back up the step-ladder to light the candles while I fetched the garden hose from the garage. Then we all stood round and watched the candlelight reflecting off the red apples and the draught from the partly opened window blowing the drips of wax on to the dogs. What better way of celebrating Christmas Eve - picking wax out of Afghan hound coats?


  1. Frank Muir's Kissing Bough sounds marvellous, I can just imagine What-A-Mess with candle wax added to all the other unfortunate bits and pieces that he usually managed to get tangled up in his coat:)

  2. Your river looks fast and angry!

    I enjoyed Frank Muir`s "Kissing Bough". He was a great stalwart of Radio 4 and is much missed.

    Are you having a tree this year BB?

  3. That is too funny! It sounds like some of my Dad's inspired Christmas decorating--about which I should write an essay. My Grampa Mac and I were responsible for the wreaths, another grand production. Why is it, holidays bring on such memories.....

  4. And Vicky is helping him. She's sure to want to create something Blingy and over-the-top!

  5. It sounds beautiful...well, not the wax on the dogs! :)

  6. I am quite tempted to make a mini one . . . watch this space!

    DW - oh yes, a tree of course, and a "proper" one (no immitation ones here). We like to bring the outdoors indoors.

    MM - get writing then!

    Rowan - I think we still have a copy of What-a-Mess the Good here - I loved the wonderful non-PC-ness of it! Good to see you back in blog-land btw.

    Kath and ER - we have OTT here - the "children" insist on having ALL the decorations on the tree. We have been in the habit of each choosing a "special" new bauble each year and those have added up . . .