British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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May i.]                              may day.                                      237
Maypoles are to be seen in some of the village-greens still standing, and adorned with garlands on May-day. On this morning, too, the young village women go out about sunrise for the purpose of washing their faces in tho May-dew, and return in the full hope of having their complexions improved by the process.—Jour, of Arch. Assoc, 1852, voL vii, p. 206.
At the village of Holne, situated on one of the spurs of Dartmoor, is a field of about two acres, the property of the parish, and called the Ploy (play) Field. In the centre of this stands a granite pillar (Menhir) six or seven feet high. On May-morning before daybreak the young men of the village used to assemble there, and then proceed to the moor, where they selected a ram lamb (doubtless with the consent of the owner), and after running it down, brought it in triumph to the Ploy Field, fastened it to the pillar, cut its throat, and then roasted it whole, skin, wool. &c. At midday a struggle took place, at the risk of cut hands, for a slice, it being supposed to confer luck for the ensuing year on the fortunate devourer. As an act of gallantry the young men sometimes-fought their way through the crowd to get a slice for the chosen amongst the young women, all of whom, in their best dresses, attended the Earn Feast, as it was called. Dancing, wrestling, and other games, assisted by copious libations of cider during the afternoon, prolonged the festivity till mid­night.—N. & Q. 1st S. vol. vii. p. 353.
in some places it is customary for the children to carry about from house to house two dolls, a large and a small one—beautifully dressed and decorated with flowers. This custom has existed at Torquay from time immemorial.
At Saffron-Walden, and in the village of Debden, an old May-day song (almost identical with that given under
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