It is the time of year when we are meant to come together and forget our differences for the sake of goodwill to all men and women. However, when it comes to the relationship between Yorkshire and Lancashire, if they were to assemble around the dining table on Christmas Day, it would be very much in the style of a dramatic festive special episode of a soap opera, rather than one of those wholesome celebratory shows traditionally hosted by Noel Edmonds on the 25th December.
Yes, the divisions run deep between the two great counties, and Christmas is just like any other time of the year. Both the White and the Red Rose want to assert their Yuletide dominance over the other. But who does it best? Let us take a neutral look at what both regions have to offer in terms of Christmas entertainment.
CHRISTMAS IN LIGHTS
Although it is not usually a Christmas celebration, this year Blackpool Illuminations spans the festive period to bring you the sort of magic that you hope for at Yuletide. It has been a firm fixture of the autumn annually since 1879, but in response to the doom and gloom that has marked most of 2020 and 2021, visitors will be able to enjoy the extraordinary sights well into winter too.
The display takes up six miles of the Lancastrian town’s roads, with a million light bulbs formed into all manner of patterns and shining any manner of colours for visitors to gawp at as they walk or drive through. Visit Blackpool describes The Christmas lights in Ripon may be less spectacular in scale, but they are incredibly meaningful for the community. This year we’ll see a tree lit up to the side of Ripon Cathedral and lighting from Bedern Bank to the Canal Basin, along Park Street, Church Street and Coltsgate Hill.The North Yorkshire city was one of the first places in the UK to crowdfund its Christmas light display purely online. Those lot from down the road in Harrogate run an annual appeal, but they do a lot of their work offline.
In 2013, Ripon’s City Development Manager at the time, Alan Weston, put an appeal up on crowdfunding site Spacehive urging locals to help “bring the festive atmosphere to Ripon by adorning our iconic city centre with an artistic classical display of pure white illuminations.”
The idea was to light up the Market Square and drive shoppers into the city centre for their gift shopping. The project earned 40 donations from locals, amounting to £9,769 which was enough to make the vision a reality. Of course, it is not a world-renowned tourist attraction like Blackpool’s glittering display, but as a sign of a close-knit community pulling together, it’s a pretty powerful statement.
As it happens, both Yorkshire and Lancashire can claim some claim to the origins of the Christmas we all know and love today.
Lancashire is seen as having been one of the first locations in the UK to embrace the concept of the Yule log. On Christmas Eve, the tradition was to bring in a log and burn it in the fireplace. If it didn’t burn for a minimum of 12 hours, it was considered bad luck. As a consequence, Lancastrians of yore would attempt to cut the largest possible chunk of tree to drag through their front door and stick on their hearth. Although we may not still burn a Yule log, it remains a part of the Christmas tableaux, even if it continues as a delicious cakey dessert instead.
Yorkshire’s contribution to the modern festive celebration is the turkey, Just try to imagine Christmas without the traditional panic over whether it will defrost in time, if it will fit in the oven and whether it will be dry enough to dehydrate every single person at the table for the rest of the day. Impossible, right? But it might not be the meal of choice if it weren’t for William Strickland from Marske, near Saltburn, on the North Yorkshire coast.
Strickland was an explorer who brought the first turkeys over from the Americas in 1526. He must have done okay from these imports, as he built not one, but two estates – at Winteringham in Ryedale and Boynton Hall in Bridlington. Now, it wasn’t exactly a short step from Strickland bringing them into the country and them adorning plates on Christmas Day (not to mention sandwiches for a week afterwards). It was the Victorians who installed the turkey as the festive snack of choice 300 years later, but it might not have been possible without this particular Yorkshireman.
SO, WHO DOES CHRISTMAS BETTER?
This is a toughie. Both Yorkshire and Lancashire have big claims in the ‘best Christmas’ stakes. But in the spirit of Christmas and good will to all we’ll call it a score draw, shake hands and begrudgingly accept each other’s festive roots? Perhaps if we agree that we’re both better at Christmas than those lot down south. Yes, that might work. it as “the greatest free light show on earth”. It also reports that the decision to continue over Christmas this year is “an invaluable boost to the resort’s tourism season after COVID-19”, not to mention offering light relief to families after a tough year. And, yes, that pun was entirely intended.