British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search



Share page  


Previous Contents Next

216                                      may eve.                          [April 30.
geek the May-trpes (Maii arbores a pueris exquiruntur), and in Dry den's time this early observance of May seems to have been customary ; one of his heroines
Cornwall.
At Penzance a number of young men and women assemble
together at a public-house, and sit up till the clock strikes
twelve, when they go round the town with violins, drums,
and other instruments, and by sound of music call upon
others to join them. As soon as the party is formed, they
proceed to different farm-houses within four or five miles of
the neighbourhood, where they are expected as regularly as
May morning comes; and they there partake of a beverage
called junket, made of raw milk and rennet, or running, as it
is called, sweetened with sugar, and a little cream added.
After this they take tea, and u heavy country cake," composed
of flour, cream, sugar, and currants, then partake of rum and
milk, and conclude with a dance. After thus regaling
themselves they gather the May. While some are breaking
down the boughs, others sit and make the " May-music." This
is done by cutting a circle through the bark at a certain
distance from the bottom of the May branches; then, by
gently and regularly tapping the bark all round from the
cut circle to the end, the bark becomes loosened, and slips
away whole from the wood, and a hole being cut in the pipe, it
is easily formed to emit a sound when blown through and
becomes a whistle. The gathering and the "May-music"
being finished, they then " bring home the May " by five or
six o'clock in the morning, with the band playing and their
whistles blowing. After dancing throughout the town they
go to their respective employments. Although May-day
should fall on a Sunday, they observe the same practice in
all respects, with the omission of dancing in the town,
Every Day Book) vol. i« p. 561,
Previous Contents Next