Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a major date in our calendar. The team has performed at its spiritual home in Woodhouse and Handsworth every year since 1963. This fixed day replaced a much older tradition of dancing in mid-winter going back to the 1800s. Our Boxing Day performance is a key part of many people’s Christmas traditions, with spectators travelling from near and far to make up crowds numbering in the hundreds.

Recent Boxing Day performances

2021: A special double-bill

Grenoside (L) and Handsworth (R) Sword Dancers at the Old Harrow, Grenoside

After a year of the country locking down (and very little time to lock swords), we wanted Boxing Day 2021 to be a memorable event. Joining forces with our friends Grenoside Sword Dancers, we marched out for our first ever Boxing Day double-bill! A fabulous two days of dance across Sunday 26 and Monday 27 December 2021. Prior to this, neither team had danced when the Boxing Day had fallen on a Sunday.

On the Sunday, Grenoside’s team joined us as we performed our traditional Handsworth Sword Dance in Woodhouse and Handsworth. Rain forced us several steps away from our usual dance spot in Handsworth to the parking area near the Old Rectory. This did however, provide the keen spectators who’d braved the weather with a unique opportunity to view the spectacle in the round as well as from the churchyard above. Between the Handsworth and Grenoside sword dances, our ‘Saint George and the Dragon’ mummers play and carols entertained the crowds.

On the Monday, the return fixture saw Five Rivers Morris and our Handsworth team travel to north Sheffield, where we repeated our dances and mummers play at Grenoside’s traditional spot outside the Old Harrow.

A fantastic turnout and show of support for Sheffield’s traditional longsword teams ensured Boxing Day 2021 was a very special occasion. It was the perfect motivation for us to continue to uphold our mid-winter traditions, to share longsword with future generations and, of course, to keep dancing.

Coverage and photos:
Sheffield Star
HTSD Facebook photo albums
Video taken in Woodhouse by Georgia Stone
Photos at Grenoside by the Old Harrow
Photos at Grenoside by Ian Spooner

2020: Not in person, but there in spirit!

Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers – Boxing Day 2020 compilation video

In 2020 the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic made it impossible for the team to practise or perform. Longsword is a style of dance inherently unsuited to social distancing of two metres (the swords are only around one metre long!) and, like many other morris and folk dance sides around the country, the team felt strongly that putting on any kind of performance would be against both the spirit and letter of the rules designed to keep everyone safe.

So, it was with a heavy heart that all thought of a performance was abandoned. In a year that saw so much emotional trauma and economic depredation, a cancelled dance performance was far from being the worst thing to happen. Nevertheless, it was still incredibly sad that having continued through two world wars, our local tradition was halted – even if only for a year.

We didn’t want a year to pass without marking the occasion. Therefore, we put together a special compilation video of our Boxing Day performances, and others, through the years. This was published at midday on 26th December 2020 – the time we should have been dancing outside Handsworth Church.

In 2021, we would make up for this year off by dancing twice – on 26 and 27 December!

Previous years

A brief history of Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers