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.                                     261
prevails at this season, even to this day at Oxford, to remind people of the pleasantness of that part of the year, which ought to create mirth and gayety."
Aubrey has this memorandum in his Remains of Gentil-isme and Judaisme (MS. Lansd. 266, p. 5) :—At Oxford the boys do blow cows5 horns and hollow canes all night; and on May-day the young maids of every parish carry about garlands of flowers, which afterwards they hang up in their churches.
At Combe, in the same county, troops of little girls dressed up fantastically parade the village, carrying sticks, to the top of which are tied bunches of flowers, and singing the following song:—
" Gentlemen and ladies,
We wish you a happy May; We've come to show our garlands, Because it is May-day.'"
The same verse, substantially, is the May-day song at Woot-ton, an adjoining parish. The last two of the four lines are sometimes as follow:—
" Come, kiss my face, and smell my mace, And give the lord and lady something."
N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. vii. p. 425.
At Headington, about two miles from Oxford, the children gather garlands from house to house. Each garland is formed of a hoop for a rim, with two half hoops attached to it and crossed above, much in the shape of a crown; each member is adorned with flowers, and the top surmounted by a crown imperial or other showy bunch of flowers. Each garland is attended by four children, two girls dressed in all their best, who carry the garland, supported betwixt them by a stick passed through it between the arches. These are followed by the " lord and lady," a boy and girl, who go from house to house and sing the same song as is sung at Combe. In the village are upwards of a dozen of these garlands, with their " lords and ladies," which give to the place the most gay and animated appearance.—Literary Gazette, May 1847. '
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