Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Thorn Cutting Ceremony, Glastonbury

049Since late in the 1920s  the people of Glastonbury, Somerset, have sent sprays from a Holy Thorn (Crataegus monogyna ‘Biflora’) tree growing in St John the Baptist’s churchyard to the Queen at Christmas time each year.  According to some people this custom started in Stuart times when the Bishop of Bath and Wells sent sprigs of the Thorn and a miraculous walnut (Juglans regia) tree to Queen Anne, consort of James I.  In recent years the eldest child at St John the Baptist Primary School cuts the sprig from the tree.

019On 16 December 2015 children from the School arrived and went into the church to see the festival of Christmas trees – shining branches – displayed there.  At about the same time the Town Crier announced the event.  Twenty minutes later he and other civic dignitaries, including the Mayor processed to the churchyard and the children emerged from the church to stand in front of the trees.  A good number of other people, including journalists, were also present.  The Vicar introduced the ceremony by explaining about the tree and asking the children questions about it, the oldest boy of the School cut a twig (not a very attractive one, one assumes other twigs were removed for mailing to the Queen), St John’s children sang the Holy Thorn Song, and children from St Benedict’s also contributed a song, before the Mayor brought the proceedings to a close.

The Thorn tree was covered in flowers, and according to the Vicar it had more flowers than it had had for many years.  There are two other Thorns in the churchyard, both much younger, but neither of them look healthy.

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