Wakes and Wells: The origins of both these revived traditions are lost in history.
Well Dressings are obviously linked to the fact that water is an essential element of life; no-one and nothing can live very long without it so it is not surprising that its source was honoured by well dressing.
Wakes probably owes its name to the Anglo-Saxon “waecan” meaning late at night. People would stay awake into the night before a major religious festival keeping vigil. Much later, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, wakes were revived as holiday times for the working force. A week off from the grind of everyday work- though unpaid- gave an opportunity for relaxation and festivity. Many towns in Lancashire had their own Wakes Weeks and the custom spread to parts of the Midlands. When each town had its own Saint the Wake would begin on the evening of the Saint’s Day. Tideswell maintains something of this tradition as St John the Baptist’s Day (24 June) comes at some time within our Well Dressing/Wakes Week.
Holidays are mostly taken for granted these days; few would contemplate taking a job that didn’t have specified holiday times included in the contract. But it’s easy to forget the link between religion and work that gave meaning to “Holiday” or as it originally was “Holy Day” .A Creation principle was for one day of rest in seven. God knew that we were not made simply to spend all our days at work; we need time off to regenerate and refresh! Holy Days celebrating Christmas or Easter or Whitsun together with major Saints’ Days gave people an opportunity to forget work and have a break- a time of fun and merriment!
Nowadays with holiday periods taken for granted “Holy Days” have become far less significant a part of our lives and though we still value the breaks that Christmas and Easter provide Summer Holidays have assumed the greater importance. I don’t know how you prefer to spend your holidays- or whether holiday time is hard to get due to responsibilities but I do know that holiday time can be rewarding if we are able to use it wisely. I like to take a good book to read on holiday; this year it will probably be one of Edward Marston’s railway detective series but I always try to find a second choice of a book that gives me some spiritual food for thought too. The little Library selection tucked away behind the South door of St John’s is well worth a visit if you want to select a reading treasure. And all free to borrow!
Meanwhile Happy Wakes and Well Dressings; let’s have a great week and may God bless our efforts and delight in our festivities! Brian