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Tom Bawcock's Eve in Cornwall

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December 7, 2014 / English / By
Rachael

Photo credit: Commons Wikipedia

At Christmas the small village of Mousehole in Cornwall celebrates in a unique way. The harbour is illuminated with lights and people travel far and wide to see the elaborate displays here. But there's another reason to celebrate here with some traditional feasting. The night befor christmas Eve is known as Tom Bawcock's Eve.

Many years ago, according to the legend, there was a terrible winter and the fishing boats were unable to leave Mousehole to get food. The people were facing starvation. On 23rd December a local character called Tom Bawcock decided to brave the weather and set sail in order to try and feed the village. Tom caught a lot of fish and to celebrate the village made a massive pie. Starry Gazey Pie is made from seven types of fish and to prove it the fish heads poke up out of the pie. Even today this pie is served on Tom Bawcock's Eve in Mousehole and it really is a big excuse for a party with the harbour lights shining on the water. It is preceeded by a lantern procession beofre settling down to devour the pie. Booking is definitely advised as is getting there early because this is a very popular delicacy. It is even represented in the Christmas lights here with a star and six fish gazing out of the water. Another interpretation of the legend is that this was always a pie createdeach year  by the fishermen who used it to wish for good catches in the coming year. The variations of fish used to create it depicted the different types of catches they hoped to net.

A song is sung on Tom Bawcock's Eve to accompany the eating of the pie in the village pubs.

"Merry place you may believe, Tiz Mouzel 'pon Tom Bawcock's eve
To be there then who wouldn't wesh, to sup o' sibm soorts o' fish
When morgy brath had cleared the path, Comed lances for a fry
And then us had a bit o' scad an' Starry-gazie pie."

Mousehole also has a moment of remembrance at Christmas time. In December1981 the lifeboat crew went to the aid of a ship in distress off the coast of Cornwall in a ferocious storm. All eight crew members from the village along with the ship's crew died. Each year those harbour lights shine on in remembrance but on the 19th December the lights are dimmed for an hour to remember the brave men who never returned. This is a working fishing village with very strong connections to the sea.

Starry Gazey Pie was also immortalised in the children's book The Mousehole Cat which tells the story of Tom Bawcock. Mousehole is one of the most vibrant places to celebrate Christmas in Cornwall and its own unique culinary traditions are a highlight of the festive season.

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Country: United Kingdom

Province/State: Cornwall

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Price Guide:$$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
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