Traditions are overflowing in abundance at Christmas time, and while there are many traditions that we are all familiar with, others are much less common and specific to individual regions. Cornwall is one such county that is steeped in Christmas (or Nadelik as it’s known locally) traditions unique to that area – and here are some of the most popular.

Cornish Christmas town

© Ian Woolcock / Adobe Stock


Guise dancing

Donning ‘guise’ masks and heading into the village to sing songs was once commonplace up and down the country during the festive period, but it’s now only Cornwall that carries out this unusual tradition. Expect to find Cornish locals wearing ragged suits and singing a ditty called Turkey Rhubarb, as they head for the nearest pub.


Cornish Bush

This Cornish tradition dates back to Pagan times and is part of the winter solstice celebrations. It involves weaving holly, mistletoe and ivy around a circle of withy to make a three-dimensional wreath that is hung indoors on 20 December. An apple is added to the wreath and a candle placed in its centre. The wreath represents new life, while dancing takes place as the candle is lit, to welcome in the God of Light.



Another old Christmas Cornish tradition that still survives today is the Montol Festival in Penzance. This celebration of the winter solstice takes place on 21 December, but preparations begin several days beforehand – people make masks, tell stories and Mummers play. On the eve of Montol, people parade the streets wearing black costumes and masks, and on the winter solstice itself, a figure representing Old Father Time is burned. This signifies the death of the old year.


Gin and cake

In olden times, it was common for traders in Falmouth to bestow Christmas shoppers (usually those from the lower classes) with gin and cake, as a token of appreciation for their custom. The gin was actually a type of local tipple made from two parts gin and one part black treacle. Unfortunately, for Christmas shoppers in Falmouth today, this tradition has fallen by the wayside!


Stargazy pie

Traditionally served during the festival of Tom Bawcock’s Eve, this local pie is said to celebrate Bawcock’s heroic haul on a long-ago stormy winter’s night. Legend has it that his entire catch was baked in a stargazy pie, made of eggs and potatoes and complete with seven types of fish heads sticking out of it. The festival where this delicacy is served takes place alongside the famous Mousehole village Christmas illuminations.


Festive swim

Wild swimming, or taking a dip in the sea, is becoming an increasingly popular Christmas tradition up and down the country, but none more so than in Cornwall. Several beaches, including Polzeath, Watergate Bay, Sennen, Trevaunance Cove at St Agnes, Gwithian and Crooklets in Bude, have supervised swims on Christmas Day, with some swims also taking place on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Many swimmers don Santa costumes and raise money for good causes.


With so many Christmas traditions, Cornwall really stands as one of the UK’s finest counties. If you would also like your business to stand out from the crowd, The Cornwall SEO Co. specialises in search engine optimisation services. Get in touch today.

From everyone at The Cornwall SEO Co., we wish you ‘Nadelik Lowen’ (or Happy Christmas in non-Cornish!).

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