British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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88                                    PLOUGH MONDAY.                           [JAN. 7.
flaming with ribbons, dragged it along from house to house, preceded by one in the dress of an old woman, but much bedizened, bearing the name of Bessy. There was also a fool, in fantastic attire. In some parts of the country morris-dancers attended the procession; occasionally, too, some reproduction of the ancient Scandinavian sword-dance added to the means of persuading money out of the pockets of the lieges.Book of Days, vol. i. p. 94.
In Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Husbandry, under the account of the Ploughman's Feast Days, are the following lines:
" Plough Munday, next after that twelf-tide is past, Bids out with the plough; the worst husband is last. If plowman get hatchet or whip to the skrene, Maids loseth their cocke, if no water be seen."
Which are thus explained in Tusser Bedivivas (1744, p. 79) : "After Christmas (which formerly, during the twelve days, was a time of very little work), every gentleman feasted the farmers, and every farmer their servants and task-men. Plough Monday puts them in mind of their business. In the morning, the men and the maid-servants strive who shall show their diligence in rising earliest. If the ploughman can get his whip, his ploughstaff, hatchet, or anything that he wants in the field, by the fireside, before the maid hath got her kettle on, then the maid loseth her shrove-tide cock, and it wholly belongs to the men. Thus did our forefathers strive to allure youth to their duty, and provided them with innocent mirth as well as labour. On this Plough Monday they have a good supper and some strong drink." See also Every Day Book, 1826, vol. i. p. 71.
In the Br1sth Apollo (fol. 1710, ii. 92), to an inquiry why the first Monday after Twelfth Day is called Plough Monday, answer is given: " Plough Monday is a country phrase, and only used by peasants, because they generally used to meet together at some neighbourhood over a cup of ale, and feast themselves, as well as wish themselves a plentiful harvest from the great corn sown (as they call wheat and rye), as also to wish a God-speed to the plough as soon as they begin
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