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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
May Day Celebrations Today

Introduction to May Day | Maypole Dancing | Morris Dancing

May Day in the Past | May Day Today | Well Dressing

In some places in England, May Day celebrations still begin at sunset on 30 April. They include lots of floral decorations and processions through towns and villages.

Charlton-on-Otmoor, a village near Oxford

A May-Day festival is held involving all the children from the Primary School. It starts with a special May-day song followed by a procession to the church. Everyone wears white and carries garlands of flowers. The girls wear straw bands and posies and ribbons in their hair.

In the church, the posies are laid in a great spread below the Rood Screen, which is specially decorated with a Rood-Cross completely wrapped in Yew leaves and branches.

After a very full special service, all the children process back to their school with all their families and friends. They dance a number of May-day dances and Maypole ones too before tucking into a great MAY Day feast.

Rochester Sweeps Festival

One of the groups performing at Rochester Sweeps FestivalRochester's annual Sweep Festival celebrates the traditional holiday that chimney sweeps used to enjoy on 1 May. It was the one time of the year when the sweeps could put away their tools and have some fun.

The Sweeps Festival is a colourful mix of music, dancing and entertainment. An opportunity to see some of the traditional dances and hear the songs which have been past down from generation to generation.

Find out more and see the photographs.

Padstow 'Obby 'Oss

The oldest May Day celebration still taking place to day, is the Padstow 'Obby 'Oss celebration in Cornwall. Its roots date back to the 14th century. Every May Day thousands of people come to see the two famous Hobby Horses, the Old Oss and the Blue Ribbon Oss.

Celebrations in Padstow officially start the night before at midnight, when a groups of 'mayers' meet outside the Golden Lion Inn to serenade the owner with their Night Song:

Rise up, Mr. Rickard, and joy to you betide,
For summer is a-come in today;
And bright is your bride, that lays down by your side
In the merry morning of May.

The whole town is ablaze with bluebells, forget-me-nots, cowslips, and sycamore twigs. Dancing and other celebrations take place all day.
Find out more

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Introduction to May Day | Maypole Dancing | Morris Dancing

May Day in the Past | May Day Today | Well Dressing

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All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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