The Reader's Rumblings - Nov 2016

Some find November unpleasant. The Anglo-Saxons called November 'Wind monath', because it was the time when the cold winds began to blow. The poet T.S. Elliot called it 'Sombre November'. Sir Walter Scott wrote: ‘November's sky is chill and drear'.

The 1st November is All Saints Day when the Church remembers all the saints – men and women from all ages and walks of life; outstanding Christians often martyred for their faith. All Saints' Day used to be known as All Hallows (hallow being an old word meaning Saint or Holy Person). The feast day actually started the previous evening, the Eve of All Hallows or Hallowe'en.

All Souls' Day is on the 2nd November when the Church remembers all those who have died.

Before the Reformation, it was customary for poor Christians to offer prayers for the dead, in return for money or food. Years ago children would go 'souling' - rather like carol singing - requesting alms or soul cakes. A Soul Cake is like a hot cross bun but without the currants or the cross on top

Bonfire Night is on the 5th and is the most widespread and flourishing of all our customs. Until 1859, all parish churches were required to hold services this day. Unlike today, celebrations were heard throughout the day, with bells ringing, cannons firing and beer flowing.

Now we come to my favourite day in November - Martinmas Day or St Martin’s Day. The Feast of St Martin on the 11th was a time for celebrations with great feasts and fairs. I may reinstate it. However, since 1918 the 11th has been commemorated as Armistice Day, and all remnants of the old Martinmas celebrations have disappeared.

Another day of note is St Cecilia's Day on the 22nd. St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians. Cecilia was my Mum’s third name and I smile because she was the least musical person you could come across.

The last Sunday of the Church Year, or the Sunday before Advent, is often called 'Stir-up Sunday', when everyone in the family used to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding, whilst making a wish.

There are some delightful bits of weather lore associated with November.
"Wind north-west at Martinmas, severe winter to come."
"If ducks do slide at Martinmas at Christmas they will swim; if ducks do swim at Martinmas at Christmas they will slide"
"Thunder in November means winter will be late in coming and going"
"A warm November is the sign of a bad Winter."
"Flowers bloomin' in late Autumn, a sure sign of a bad Winter comin'."

And some modern lore for you - I was driving north on the A3 on the 30th August and passed three snow ploughs travelling in the opposite direction around the Petersfield area. Does the local Council know something we don’t?

Since May in Church we have been in a period known as Ordinary Time which ends this month with the last four Sundays before Advent; and we all know what Advent signifies. If I had more column space I could have a true (g)rumbling about the early Christmas preparations in the commercial world.

For us at St John the Baptist's Church, we shall use November to mark down the time to when we can start focusing on preparations for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmasstime. We start the month of November in a rather sombre mood, but we end the month with the commencement of a period of devout and joyful expectation.

When I sat down to write this month’s Rumbling the following verse kept coming to mind:

“Remember, remember! 
The fifth of November, 
The Gunpowder treason and plot;”

I return to the start of the month. There are more important things to remember than the Gunpowder Plot. We need to remember all those who have passed this way, and of course all those who have died in conflicts across the world.

Our main Remembrance Service is on Sunday 13th November – the service starts outside the Church by the memorial at 10.55am and continues inside. All are most welcome.

Martin Brown – Reader at St John the Baptist, Westbourne.

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