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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas traditions....

There are religious and non-religious traditions that go towards making Christmas, well, Christmas. One tradition in Kirkwall, Orkney on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas, with a name from the dim and distant past) is the "Ba". There are two games, the boys Ba and the Men's Ba held later in the day. These are games of street football, though there aren't really any rules!

There are two teams - the Uppies and the Doonies, and the Ba (ball, traditionally and lovingly made especially for the event) is thrown into the heaving mass of humanity that makes up the two teams, waiting impatiently by the Kirk Green and St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.  The "goal" is at each end of the town. For the "Doonies" this is in the sea in the Kirkwall Basin. The Uppies goal is up in the town.  This year the Doonies won and you can see some excerpt from the Men's game below.  I can't begin to explain it really so take a look at some more info here. No there are no obvious signs of which team the men are in - but everyone will *know* who is in their team! And yes there was a women's ba, but it is no more - rumour had it the women played too roughly ;-)    The game goes on for hours, and yes it carried on, followed by a large crowd, in the pouring rain and wind...... deeply bonkers but rather wonderful!

All the buildings in the town have stout wooden bars put across all windows and doors to stand against the crush of the crowd as the Ba moves up or down the town. I remember on my first winter visit to Kirkwall thinking - gosh they must have a lot of trouble around here on New Year as all the shops are being boarded up.  Little did I know it was an "amicable" game of street football.......