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

April 30.]                          may eve.                                      217
On the last day of April, the proprietor of every flower-garden in the neighbourhood of Torquay receives visits from a great number of girls, who solicit " some flowers for the May-dolls." This is usually complied with, and at no great cost, as flowers are commonly very abundant. Soon after nine o'clock on May-day, or the day following when that falls on Sunday, the same young folk call at every house, and stop everyone they meet, to show their May-dolls, collecting, at the same time, such small gratuities as may be offered.— Once a Week, Sept. 24th, 1870.
At Great Gransden on the evening or night preceding May-day, the young men (farmers' servants) go and cut the May or hawthorn boughs, which they bring home in bundles, and leave some at almost every house, according to the numbers of young persons in it, singing what they call The Night Song. On the evening of May-day, and the following evenings, they go round to every house where they left a bough, and sing the May Song. One is dressed with a shirt over his other clothes, and decorated with ribbons, and is called the May Lord, another in girls' clothes, is called the May Lady, or Mary. One has a handkerchief on a pole or stick as a flag, whose business is to keep off the crowd. The rest have ribbons in their hats. The money collected is spent in a feast of plum cake, bread and cheese, and tea.
The evening before May-day is termed " Mischief Nightn by the young people of Burnley and the surrounding district, when all kinds of mischief are perpetrated. Formerly shop­keepers' sign-boards were exchanged : " John Smith, Grocer," finding his name and vocation changed, by the sign over his door, to " Thomas Jones, Tailor," and vice versa; but the police have put an end to these practical jokes. Young men and women, however, still continue to play each other tricks by placing branches of trees, shrubs, or flowers under each others' windows, or before their doors. All these have a
Previous Contents Next