Two weeks left before Christmas and the visiting schedule is well under way. I dread it usually. How to fit in visiting people we haven’t seen since last Christmas (read as ‘relatives’) with people we want to see (read as ‘party with’) as well as having some quality time at home can be quite fraught. Factor in the travelling time and where to spend the night…no, I do not want to think about it right now.
These are just temporary visits even though they all come at once at this time of year, the season of goodwill. But for some people visits turn into migration. On 11 December, in 1620, about 103 people disembarked at a place called Plymouth to begin a new life. These folk were known as Pilgrims who left the shores of England to find a place where they could live in peace. They wanted to be free to follow their own faith, their own way and not live in an intolerant and turbulent country as England was at that time. They moved first to Holland and then to the New World, which later became the United States of America. The Pilgrim Fathers became the symbols of the new free world that the USA was to become whilst holding on to their English identity.
Not all migrants had freedom to worship as their main focus. For some it was much more simple. We are not really sure why the Anglo-Saxons from Germany came to England but some were definitely invited. After the Romans left in the fifth century, the indigenous peoples of England were feeling pretty vulnerable without the gladiatorial protection being in the Roman Empire provided. Invasions from the north and west were frequent. There are records of attacks from the Scots and the Irish and these Celtic folk were quite scary. Well, they could survive very cold weather after all.
Two of the most famous Saxons were Horst and Hengest, according to Bede, Ninnius and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. They were invited as mercenaries serving Vortigen, King of the Britons. He needed armies to fight for him against the Picts, who resided in modern day Scotland. Various sources have said that Horst and Hengest were paid with supplies of food and clothing as their homeland was crowded and over populated. This would also explain why so many families moved to England to settle here. England has a lot of rain but the land is very fertile and flooding is not as a great a problem as it was in the regions of Saxony, Angeln, Jutland and Friesland. England is really good for growing things even before we discovered potatoes. And these people stayed here, so it must have been good.
I try to think how difficult it must have been for these families moving to unknown lands, without photographs or holidays to prepare them. How unusual was the landscape and atmosphere? How scary were the native peoples?
Well certainly not as scary or unusual as my visits to the relatives, that’s for sure.
(c) 2014 A.J. Sefton