British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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246                                      may day.                              [May I.
Isle of Man.
May Day is ushered in with blowing of horns on the mountains, and with a ceremony which, says Waldron, has something in the design of it pretty enough. In almost all the great parishes they choose from among the daughters of the most wealthy farmers a young maid for the Queen of May. She is dressed in the gayest and best manner they can, and is attended by about twenty others, who are called maids of honour. She has also a young man, who is her captain, and has under his command a good number of inferior officers. In opposition to her is the Queen of Winter, who is a man dressed in woman's clothes, with woollen hood, fur-tippets, and loaded with the warmest and heaviest habits one upon another. In the same manner are those, who represent her attendants, drest; nor is she without a captain and troop for her defence. Both being equipt as proper emblems of the Beauty of the Spring and the Deformity of the Winter, they set forth from their respective quarters, the one preceded by violins and flutes, the other with the rough music of the tongs and the cleavers. Both parties march till they meet on a common, and then their trains engage in a mock battle. If the Queen of the Winter's forces get the better, so as to take the Queen of May prisoner, she is ransomed for as much as pays the expenses of the day. After this ceremony Winter and her company retire, and divert themselves in a barn, and the others remain on the green, where, having danced a considerable time, they conclude the evening with a feast, the queen at one table with her maids, the captain with his troop at another. There are seldom less than fifty or sixty at each board.
For the seizure of her Majesty's person that of one of her slippers was substituted moro recently, which was in like manner ransomed to defray the expenses of the pageant. The procession of the Summer—which was subsequently composed of little girls, and called the Macehoard *—outlived
* The maceboard (probably a corruption of May-sports) went from door to door inquiring if the inmates would buy the queen's favour, which was composed of a small piece of ribbon.
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