England has and had 100s of special ceremonies, traditions and customs. Some are group events some private, some ancient and unfathomable, some recent and understandable. For the last 30 years I have been travelling across the country and experiencing these unique curiosities which sprinkle British eccentricities into an otherwise mundane life. Each month we’ll be looking at customs survived those 100 years or older, revived those newer customs many reestablished and those demised, lost but not always forgotten. Join me in these travels.
2013 I’ve added customs contrived, that is new customs that have no traditional aspect yet. Why? Two reasons one because they deserve attention and secondly it allows me to keep the three posts a month up especially in August and January when there are few surviving customs.
2014, I’ve added customs transcribed, that is old customs from overseas. Why? Because many such as Chinese New Year and Divali have become just as widespread and important as native customs, others such as the Australia Breakfast deserve wider knowledge.
2015 I’ve added customs occasional for customs which are based around one off events or a number of dates or days in the year.
I’ve also added a link to Calendarcustoms.com website as well so you can find out when the events are on next. It’s good to see that this site is expanding as a result of my exploits here!
Links to customs covered
- Custom survived: Sending Christmas Cards
- Custom revived: Harthill’s Derby Tup
- Custom demised: The Vessel or Wassail Cup
- Custom survived: Edenbridge’s Guy Fawkes Night
- Custom transcribed: Leicester’s Diwali festival of lights
- Custom demised: Clementing and catterning
- Custom revived: Old Man’s Day, Braughing
- Custom contrived: All Souls Service of Homage and Remembrance
- Custom demised: Weyhill Sheep Fair
- Custom revived: Blessing the Wells at Midhopestones
- Custom contrived: The Carshalton Straw Man
- Custom demised: Going a-nutting
- Custom survived: The Brigg Horse Fair
- Custom revived: The Inspection of the Gibson Mausoleum Sutton
- Custom contrived: Bonsall Hen Race
- Custom survived: Leek Club Day
- Custom contrived: Pride
- Custom demised: Mace Monday at Newbury
- Custom survived: The Nepton Distribution Barking
- Custom revived: Damask Rose Ceremony Leceister
- Custom demised: Love Divination on Midsummer
- Custom survived: Mollicar Sing
- Custom revived: Wath upon Dearne Bun throwing
- Custom contrived: St. Richard Festival, Droitwich
- Custom survived: Good Friday Bun Hanging at The Bell Horndon on the Hill
- Custom Contrived: The Race of The Boggmen
- Custom revived: Battle Abbey Marbles and scramble Championship
- Custom survived: Wychwood Forest Palm Sunday Walk
- Custom survived: Visiting the Lewis Santa’s Grotto, Liverpool
- Custom transcribed: Christmas Tree Festivals
- Custom demised: Stephening at Drayton Beauchamp
- Custom survived: Bridgwater Illuminated Carnival
- Custom transcribed: American Thanksgiving
- Custom demised: Queene’s or Queen Elizabeth’s Day
- Custom survived: Gopher Ringing Newark on Trent
- Custom contrived: Apple Day
- Custom demised: Kick a Frenchman’s Day
- Customs occasional: Denby Dale Pies
- Custom revived: The Whitebait Festival
- Custom demised: Huntingdon Freeman’s Boundary Walk
- Custom transcribed: Notting Hill Carnival
- Custom revived: Lympstone’s Furry Dance, Devon
- Custom demised: Eton Ram Hunting, Berkshire
- Custom survived: The Knillian Ceremony, St Ives, Cornwall
- Custom revived: St Ann’s Day Pilgrimage to St. Ann’s Well, Brislington
- Custom demised: Yarnton Lot Meadows Ceremony, Oxfordshire
- Custom survived: Folkestone’s Blessing the sea and fisheries
- Custom occasional: Abingdon Bun Throwing
- Custom demised: Visiting wells and springs at Midsummer
- Custom contrived: The Bluebell Service, Swithland Woods, Leicestershire
- Custom survived: St. Walstan’s Day pilgrimage, Bawburgh, Norfolk
- Custom demised: The Byzant Ceremony Shaftesbury Dorset
- Custom survived: Lichfield’s Court of St. George
- Custom revived: Badajov Day, Nottingham
- Custom demised: Eynsford Arbour Day
- Custom survived: Samuel Jobson bread bequest and sermon
- Custom contrived: Tower Hill Druid Ceremony of Spring Equinox
- Custom demised: Hunting the Hare at Dane Hills Leicester
- Custom survived: Atherstone’s Shrove Tuesday Football
- Custom revived: Ripon’s Candlemas Festival of Lights
- Custom demised: Carlow’s dole, Woodbridge
- Custom revived: Wassailing the Apple Trees Carhampton
- Custom contrived: Grenoside Traipse
- Custom demised: Calennig on New Year’s Day
- Custom survived: Waltham Cross Bakers and Sweeps Flour and Soot Boxing Day Football Massacre
- Custom demised: Cattle kneeling on Christmas Eve
- Custom transcribed: Christingle
- Custom survived: Loughborough’s November Fair
- Custom contrived: Oxford Street Christmas Light Switch Ons
- Custom demised: Push Penny at Durham Cathedral, County Durham
- Custom survived: The Lion Sermon, St Katherine Cree, London
- Custom contrived: Blessing the Horses at Horndon-on-the Hill, Essex
- Custom demised: Love divination on St. Faith’s and St. Luke’s Day
- Custom survived: Colchester Oyster Proclaimation
- Custom transcribed: Ganesh Chaturthi – immersing of Ganesha effigies
- Custom demised: Avoid eating Blackberries after Michaelmas Day
- Custom survived: Brent Harvest Home, Somerset
- Custom revived: Marhamchurch Revel, Cornwall
- Custom demised: Visiting St. Helen’s Wells on St. Helen’s Feast Day
- Custom survived: Ebernoe Horn Fair
- Custom contrived: Brinsley Coffin Walk
- Custom demised: Crabbing the Parson, Clent, Worcestershire
- Custom survived: Arundel’s Corpus Christi Carpet of Flowers
- Custom revived: Winster Morris and Winster Wakes
- Custom demised: Midsummer Fire Cartwheel rolling
- Custom survived: May Dew collection, Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
- Custom revived: May Garland, Lewes, Sussex
- Custom demised: May Goslings
- Custom Survived: William Hubbard Graveside Easter Singing, Market Harborough, Leicestershire
- Custom revived: Beltane Fires, Port Meadow, Oxford
- Custom demised: Fig Sunday
- Custom transcribed: Stamford Hill Purim, London
- Custom revived: Coddington Mothering Sunday, Nottinghamshire…where it all begun!
- Custom demised: Borrowing Days from April
- Custom contrived: Thinking Day
- Custom revived: Olney Pancake Race
- Custom demised: Shrovetide Street Football, Dorking, Surrey
- Custom survived: Mummers or Darkie Day in Padstow
- Custom contrived: Twelfth Night celebrations at Geffrye Museum
- Custom demised: Holly Day, Brough, Cumbria
Boxing Day 26th December: Rattlejag Morris Boxing Day Tour. Rattlejag Morris have never failed to appear at a couple of north Nottinghamshire pubs on Boxing Day, whatever the weather, for the last 11 years of their existence. They continue a tradition started by the now defunct Broadstone Morris, a men’s Cotswold Morris side, both centred on Retford, Notts. In 2013 they will yet again be at the Blue Bell in Gringley-on-the-Hill at 12 noon and at the Blacksmith’s Arms in Everton at 1.00pm. Both historic hostelries serve good ale and food, the Blacksmith’s serving a Hog Roast on the day especially, and their will be traditional music sessions in both pubs after the dancing. Come along and bring all the family!
And don’t forget they have also continued the Broadstone tradition of dancing out at dawn on 1st May on the ancient castle mound in a field next to Laxton, Notts – the last area working the Anglo-Saxon strip farming methods. Barbecued bacon butties and beer served after the dancing and you can also go on a Dawn Chorus nature ramble across the Laxton fields afterwards.
Many morris sides across the country carry out these two traditions, both recorded in history – didn’t Cecil Sharp become interested in collecting morris dances on early 20thC Boxing Day? – but modern sides are creating new local customs around these dates in the spirit of the old also.
Rattlejag often accompany Muskham Pinkies plough players when they perform in Newark and pubs in Nth Muskham and Bathley, usually on the Saturday before the Epiphany, 6th January.
Rattlejag Morris are a mixed side and the only one performing dances from Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire – see their website at http://www.rattlejagmorris.org.uk for more information.
Thanks Moira. Hope to see ringing the bells and sweeping the floor soon…it’ll soon be plough Monday.
Here’s one you may have missed and be interested in:
Sorry about putting you off investigating Purim….I think it’s rather more “out” now than it was when we wrote Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem…
Hi no need to apologise 🙂 Your book has been a constant and at one point only source of information…so much most of the pages have fallen out!! Now its been over 20 years perhaps you can reveal the made up one – I’ve always thought it was larding the otter was I right!
Hi, I was very interested in your coverage of the Clavie fire festival at Burghead in Moray. I went there a few years back, but couldn’t get near to the start because of the crush, so missed seeing and photographing the building process. I am giving a talk about the Clavie next week in a series on the heritage of the Picts ~ could I please have your permission to use a couple of your photos? The two which I would particularly like to include in my presentation are (1) sawing the barrel in half, and (2) the close up of the hammer stone. Proper credit will of course be given. Thank you.
Cheers, Graeme Cruickshank
Hi Graeme. Its a great festival isn’t it. More than happy for you to use the pictures….shame you didn’t get near…I was treated right royally when I intended including being invited to see it being made which was an unexpected treat. Mind I was black from head to toe being so near the inferno! Let me know when the event is and I can publicise it for you too on some appropriate Facebook groups. I presume you have photos of the well as well.
Re Coventry Fair
From The Life of Mrs Sherwood (London: Darton & Co., 1854), p. 45, writing of a visit she made to Coventry in 1782.
‘Coventry Fair occurred whilst we were there. The singular pageant by which the memory of Lady Godiva has been, I believe, groundlessly scandalized for ages past in Coventry, was omitted that year. This pageant is a triennial one. And though I did not witness it, I however enjoyed what I thought a vast privilege — I drank tean in the house where the figure of Peeping Tom was kept, and had the pleasure of being introduced into the very closet from which the figure obtrudes itself. At this same fair at Coventry I had the pleasure, for the first and last time, of taking a turn in a whirligig, being placed in a small chair, whilst my brother was mounted on a wooden horse. My sister’s nurse allowed us this indulgence. My mother’s sense of decorum was much hurt when she was told of it.’
So it seems that the procession was already only triennial in 1782.