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.                                      243
each of those places run for the £10 at Old Wives Lees as above mentioned on May 19 th.—Hasted, History of Kent, vol ii. p. 787.
At Sevenoaks the children carry their tasteful boughs and garlands from door to door. The boughs consist of a bunch of greenery and wild flowers tied at the end of a stick, which is carried perpendicularly. The garlands are formed of two hoops interlaced cross-wise, and covered with blue and yellow flowers from the woods and hedges. Sometimes the garlands are fastened at the end of a stick carried perpendicularly, and sometimes hanging from the centre of a stick borne horizontally by two children. Either way the effect is pleasing, and fully worth the few pence which the appeal of " May-day, garland-day! please to remember the May-bough!" makes one contribute.—N. & Q 4th S. vol. iii. p. 424.
In most places it is customary for each driver of a team to decorate his horses with gaudy ribbons on May-day. In Liverpool and Birkenhead, however, where some thousands of men are employed as carters, this May-day dressing has grown into a most imposing institution. Every driver of a team in and around the docks appears to enter into rivalry with his neighbours, and the consequence is that most of the horses are gaily dressed and expensively decorated. The drivers put on their new suits, covered with white linen slops, and sport new whips in honour of the occasion. Some of the embellishments for the horses are of a most costly character ; not a few are disposed in most admirable taste; and in several instances they amount to actual art-exhibitions, since the carts are filled with the articles in which their owners deal. Real and artificial flowers are disposed in wreaths and other forms upon different parts of the harness, and brilliant velvet cloths, worked in silver and gold, are thrown over the loins of the horses ; and if their owners are of sufficient standing to bear coats-of-arms, these are emblazoned upon the cloths, surrounded with many curious and artistic devices. Not only are the men interested in these displays, but wives and daughters, mistresses and servants, vie with each other as to
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