|New Year's Day: the first person through your door (or First Foot) must be a dark-|
|haired male and bring a small gift for good luck. Other traditions which can be |
found include bonfires, singing guisers (like carolers) traveling from house to house
in costume, midnight processions and sword dancing. Mummers Plays are also
enacted with the following traditional characters: the Fool or Medicine Man, the
Woman (always played by a man), Beelzebub with his club and a hobby horse. The
Fool is beheaded and resurrected as a vigorous young man.
|Twelfth Night: now Twelfth Night itself is the Christian holiday Epiphany. However|
|some not so Christian traditions seemed to have attached themselves to this Holy |
Day. Traditionally a cake is baked with a bean and a pea. Whomever receives the
bean is the King of the festivities and the recipient of the pea becomes the queen.
Wassailing is also performed at this time and is undoubtedly a remnant of an old
fertility rite. To Wassail is to drink to prosperity with a type of mulled cider/ale/wine
which contains some apples. When wassailing people, you all partake from a
communal cup. In agricultural areas, you wassail the orchard by pouring cider at
the roots of the best tree in the orchard. The bucket of cider has a piece of toast
floating in it "for the robins" and it is placed in the fork of the tree. The ceremony
ends when someone blows a horn and all make a lot of noise to scare away evil
|Easter: Easter is obviously a Christian holiday - but there is no doubt some pre-|
|christian traditions crept into the festivities especially due to its proximity to the first |
day of spring. One example is to get up to watch the Eastern Morning sunrise to
"watch the sun dance across the horizon". There is much weather lore surrounding
Easter - changing depending on your region. It is a traditional time for sporting
activities. Special Easter cakes would go to the winners. One activity now almost
forgotten was "holly-bussing". This is where people went out into the woods
singing, gathering holly for the village cross. This is also a time for morris
|May Day: May Day is welcomed in some areas by a hobby horse. The hobby|
|horse procession starts with the horse (or more precisely a man in a ribboned |
hobby horse costume), some attendants, a man with a drum and a musician. As
the parade starts, the hobby horse interacts with the parade watchers. In some
cases the hobby horse has a pair of "snappers" which could be used to demand
treats and rewards. In some versions, a man-woman, or "Betsy/Betty/Moll" is
included in the ritualistic procession and some show the death and rebirth of the
hobby horse. Another character is the Fool (Punch) who carries a bag on a stick
and whacks spectators as he leads the parade. There is also an unnamed
character who carries a sword covered in ribbons with a piece of cake at the end.
People partake of the cake for good-luck. Other customs for the holiday may be
familiar: planting, garlands, may pole dances. At one time both young men and
women went into the fields at midnight to the sounds of cow's horns and drums to
gather the decorations. There was also a "Queen of May" and a "Lord of May" or
"Jack-in the Green" which oversaw the festivities. Of course there was a may pole,
decorated in many colors. If there is any question about May Day originally being a
fertility festival, you just need to dance the may pole to find out the answer!
|Garland/Royal Oak Day/Oak Apple Day: This day is May 29. Many of these are|
|a continuation of May Day festivities but put on this day for political reasons. The |
most interesting of the rituals for this day involves the coronation of a May King.
The Garland (May King) rides on horseback and among his attendants is a giant
flower bouquet called his queen.
|Midsummer/St John's Eve: (around June 22nd) traditions on this day/night|
|include bonfires, fortune telling, and decorating wells and springs with garlands and |
|Lammas: as an early "thanksgiving" type of holiday involves the|
|blessing/consecration of loaves made from the first wheat to ripen around the 1st of |
August. Some celebrations include rush-bearing, well decorating and maypole
|Autumn Harvest Festivals: There are many remnants of additional harvest|
|festivals. The lead character for these festivities is the Harvest Queen. She also |
goes by the Maiden, Kern/Corn Baby, Kern Doll, the Ivy Girl or even the Mare. This
female character is not played by a person, but a Corn Doll made of from the last or
largest corn stalk which has been harvested ceremoniously.
|Old Holy Cross Day/ St Matthew's Day: This is around the first day of fall.|
|Traditions include weather folklore.|
|Michaelmas: Michaelmas is only a few days after the first day of fall, so some fall|
|traditions are observed on this day as well. Goose is the traditional ceremonial dish |
for the day. This was a big time for hiring, rental contracts and, more recently,
|All Hallows' Eve: traditions include nit-roasting, apple bobbing (either from a water|
|filled container or off of a string), games and incantations. Fortune-telling and |
lighted candles are also prevalent.
|Yule-tide: This generally refers to the time from Christmas to New Years. In some|
|area mulled Elderberry Wine is drank to ward off demons and evil spirits. |
Decorations include the familiar evergreen, holly, box, mistletoe, ivy and yew.
People do light a yule log, which should be as large as possible. If you want to
ensure good luck, you must keep it lit for a minimum of 12 hours. Other light
bundles of ash sticks for the same purpose. According to some local traditions, it is
a good time for divination. Boar's head is a traditional meal this time of year.