Friday, 4 December 2015

The Traditions, Festivals and Customs of Britain



Every village, town, city, county and nation of the UK is steeped in its own local customs and traditions. Some are relatively new, or modern variations of older ones, and some are truly ancient.

Some have political or religious origins such as Bonfire Night with its ceremonial burning of Guy Fawkes, or the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. 

Some are outrageously (and hilariously) politically incorrect according to the modern day sensibilities of humourless, intolerant 'Liberals', such as Cornwall's Darkie Day, or even the celebration of St George's Day itself.


Yet they are all part of what makes the people of these isles distinct and unique. The ubiquitous and rich tapestry of our culture, shared memory, folklore and experience that bind us together as one. A culture to be (or so one would have thought) universally and vigorously lauded, cherished and defended.

Here are just a few of them.


Hogmanay

          

Hogmanay is what Scots call the final day of the year and the name has become synonymous around the world with Scottish new year celebrations. Hogmanay 2014 saw 148,000 revellers attend the official three day long festivities in Edinburgh alone, with participants from over 70 countries in attendance.

The origins of Hogmanay are unclear and customs vary throughout Scotland, although they invariably include the giving of gifts and visiting the homes of friends and neighbours.

The most widespread national custom is the practise of first-footing which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person of the new year to cross the threshold of a friends or neighbours abode and often includes a symbolic presentation of items such as salt, silver, coal, shortbread and whisky. Each individual bestowal signifies a blessing of good fortune to the household such as financial prosperity, warmth, plentiful food and good cheer.

Food and drink are then given to the guests and the party can go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day. The first-foot is believed to determine the providence of the household for the rest of the year with tall, dark-haired men considered to bring the most luck, and fair-haired men the least.

A custom in the Highlands is to celebrate Hogmanay with the saining (blessing) of the household and livestock. Early on new year's morning householders drink and then sprinkle magical water in every room and on all the inhabitants. The house is then sealed up tight and branches of juniper are set on fire and carried throughout the home.

The juniper smoke is allowed to thoroughly fumigate the building then all the doors and windows are flung open to let in the cold, fresh air of the new year. A whisky restorative is administered and the household sits down to its new year breakfast.

Hogmanay fireball swinging in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.

Wassailing

                                  
Wassailing celebrations take place on the Twelfth Night, 6th January. Similar to Hogmanay, it is not entirely certain when the tradition began but the word wassail is thought to derive from the Anglo Saxon waes hael (be well, be in good health).

There are two distinct variations of the wassail. The house visiting wassail involves going door to door, wassail bowl in hand, singing songs and spreading merriment and good wishes. The wassail bowl contains a drink usually consisting of  warmed ale, wine or cider blended with spices and honey, which is passed from one person to the next to the cry of “wassail.”
                                                         
The second version is the orchard wassail whose specific rituals vary from region to region. They will often involve a wassail King and Queen who lead the revellers in a noisy procession from one orchard to the next whilst singing, shouting, banging pots and pans and firing shotguns. The aim is to make as much noise as possible in order to both waken the sleeping tree spirits, and frighten off any evil demons that may be lurking in the branches in the hope that the trees will provide a bountiful harvest come the autumn.

Although wassailing is often described in innocuous and nostalgic terms the practise has not always been so innocent. Roving bands of rowdy youngsters used to force entry into the homes of wealthy neighbours and demand free food and drink. If the householders refused they would be cursed and their house vandalised.

This ancient custom is still practised across the country today, and is particularly popular in the cider producing counties of Somerset, Devon, Herefordshire, Kent and Sussex. The most prominent modern day wassails are held annually in Carhampton and Dunster in Somerset and Whimple and Sandford in Devon.

A modern day orchard wassail in Kent.

Padstow Old Obby Oss Day


Padstow's Obby Oss festival takes place on May Day and is believed to originate from the Celtic fertility ritual of Beltane. Proceedings start at midnight on May eve when townspeople gather outside the Golden Lion Inn to sing the Night Song.

At 11am on May Day the Old Oss leaves the Golden Lion Inn with a band made up of accordions and drums whereupon it cavorts and dances around, prodded along by a Teaser, as it attempts to capture young maidens.


The Oss outfit itself is built around a six foot circular wooden hoop covered in sailcloth draped down to the ground and topped off with a fearsome horse mask. There are two Oss outfits, the Old and the Blue Ribbon. Only those who live in Padstow are allowed to wear the traditional whites on the day, and you have to be a member of a family that has lived in the town for generations to be able to wear the red accoutrements and follow the Old Oss. Newcomers must wear and follow the Blue.

Throughout the day there are parades led by the Mayer in his top hat and decorated stick. He is followed by the band, then an Oss and Teaser and a host of people singing and dancing. Late in the evening everyone gathers at the maypole, before the Oss retire to their respective stables and the crowd sing of the Obby Oss' death until their resurrection the following May Eve.


May Day is the biggest event in Padstow's calendar and it is not unusual to see 30,000 people crammed into the town including Padstonians from all over the world, many of whom return to the town specifically to attend the Obby Oss celebration.
 

Cheese Rolling



Cheese Rolling is an annual event held on the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper's Hill near Gloucester. The event has historically been the preserve of the people of the village of Brockworth, but now competitors from all over the world take part, some from as far afield as Australia, Japan and the USA.

The event has taken place since the fifteenth century and has grown such a global following that there is increasing pressure to recognise Cheese Rolling as an official Olympic sport.


The precise rules of Cheese Rolling remain something of a mystery. 9lb rolls of Double Gloucester cheese are launched from the top of the hill in a series of races of differing categories. In theory competitors are supposed to catch the cheese which is given a one second head start and can reach speeds of over 70mph during its descent.

In reality the cheese is rarely, if ever, caught. Instead, the first participant to reach the bottom of the hill alive is declared victorious, the cheese itself being their well deserved prize.


Didn't win.
                                        
Since 1988, the cheeses used on the day have been handmade by Diana Smart of Churcham, Gloucestershire using a traditional recipe handed down from generation to generation including milk from her very own herd of Brown Swiss, Holstein and Gloucester cows. 


Say cheese.
                                     
During the second world war rationing prevented the use of cheese for the event. From 1941 to 1954, a wooden cheese was rolled down the hill with a small piece of real cheese in the centre. The Ministry of Food had to give special permission to use cheese in this way.

The world record holder for the highest number of race wins is Stephen Gyde from Brockworth who competed in the event between 1978 and 2006. Mr Gyde has a current total of 21 cheeses under his belt and also holds the record for being the only competitor to have won three cheeses in a single year, twice

  

It is difficult to comprehend what kind of sick mind, utterly detached from common humanity, would seek to systematically destroy British, European and Western Civilisation with its myriad of fascinating, diverse, and often bizarre and eccentric traditions, customs and people.

Leftists and Liberals live in an upside down world of ethical and intellectual insanity. So hardened and poisoned are their hearts it is not certain how many of them, if any, will ever rejoin the ranks of the European people and help to resist the wickedness being foist upon them.

In fact, they appear to so delight in what they are doing to us that any attempt to make them see the light seems akin to chasing a roll of cheese, barrelling down a hillside at 70mph.

And what disappointment then, when that roll of cheese has finally been caught, only to find it is nothing but a heartless, lifeless lump of dead wood, completely under the control of the 'Ministry of Food.'


The local authorities attempted to shut it down in 2010. The people resisted, and prevailed. 












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