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British Life & Culture
Unusual British Customs & Traditions
by Mandy Barrow

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Strange, bizarre, wacky, eccentric and even mad festivals still taking place in Britain today

April / Easter
image: Unusual Calendar

A long time ago the year was marked out with special days which marked the passing year. These were days of celebrations where people would do things, eat things or make things which they would not normally do.

Folk, Fact and Sayings about April

Walpurgis Night, Beltane Eve
Celtic Fire Festival celebrating the coming of summer.

(See also our Easter Pages )

Palm Sunday

Pax Cakes

In 1570, to encourage good neighbourliness among parisherners, Lady Scudamore arrange for five shillingsworth of cake and ninepenn'orth of ale to be provided every Palm Sunday in four Herefordshire churches. Nowadays small biscuits stamped with the image of the Pascal Lamb and the words ' God and Good Neighbourhood' are distibuted at the church doors after the service.

Good Friday
(See also our Good Friday page)

Hot-Cross Buns Service

St Bartholomew-the-Great, Smithfield. Starts 11.30
In a ceremony that dates back hundreds of years, 21 widows are given money and hot-cross buns after the church service

hot cross buns
Hot cross buns

Easter Bun Ceremony

A London pub in Bromley-by-Bow, holds an annual Easter Bun ceremony on Good Friday. Each year a sailor adds a hot cross bun to the many that hang already in commemoration of a poor widow who baked a bun for her only son that never returned from sea.

Midgely Pace Egg Play - Calder Valley, West Yorkshire

Easter Saturday

(Visit our Holy Saturday Page)

Nutters Dance - Bacup, Lancashire

The Bacup Nutters Dance traditionally takes place on Easter Saturday in the small Pennine town of Bacup. Each year a team of folk-dancers with blackened faces dance through the town from boundary to boundary.

Nutters Dance

Visit our Easter Saturday page for more information

Easter Sunday

(See also our Easter Sunday Page)

Egg Jarping and Egg Rolling - See our Easter Day page

Easter Monday

(See also our Easter Monday Page)

London Harness Horse Parade- Easter Monday
South of England showground, Ardingly, West Sussex.
The first parade occurred in 1885 to encourage drivers to take a humane view of their horses. Today a huge variety of vehicles can be seen in action from rarely used horse drawn fire engines to the Harrods delivery ‘unicorn’ which is used every day.

Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle KickingHare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking

At Hallaton in Leicestershire, the Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking, an unruly rugby game between the village of Hallaton and Medbourne, takes place every Easter Monday.

Click here to find out more on our Easter Monday page

World Coal Carrying Championship - Nr. Wakefield in Yorkshire

On Easter Monday, The World Coal Carrying Championship takes place in the village of Gawthorpe, in Yorkshire. Contestants run for one mile, carrying a 50kg bag of coal.

History behind the custom
The contest dates from an incident at the Beehive Inn in 1963, when Lewis Hartley said to Reggie Sedgewick: "Ba gum, lad, tha' looks buggered!" to which an affronted Mr Sedgewick riposted: "Let's 'ave a coil race from Barracks t' Maypole." And they did.

Easter Tuesday

Tuppenny Starvers
Thanks to a bequest made in 1739, children attending morning service at St Michael's Church, Bristol, on Easter Tuesday are given enormous spicey buns to eat.
At the time of the bequest, tuppenny buns, intended for the choir boys, were a special treat compared with the more usual penny ones.

Second Tuesday after Easter (Hock Day)

This day used to be held as a festival in England and observed until the 16th century. According to custom, on Hock Monday, the women of the village seized and bound men, demanding a small payment for their release. On the Tuesday of Hocktide the men similarly waylaid the women. The takings were paid to the churchwarden for parish work.

Hocktide Festival -
Hungerford, Berkshire

Hocktide covers the Monday and Tuesday after Low Sunday which is the Sundy after Easter. It was once a time for sports and games, and for the collection for the church and parish.

Hocktide Tutti-men
The second Tuesday after Easter
Hungerford is now the only place in the country still to maintain the annual Hocktide festival.

The festival dates from the 14th century when Prince John of Gaunt gave the rights of free grazing and fishing to local 'commoners'. It has celebrated the granting of commoners’ rights for over 600 years.

Hungerford has no Mayor; the senior citizen of the town is the Constable, and he s elected on the second Tuesday after Easter at a special Hocktide Court, as are also the Portreeve, Bailiff and the Court of Feoffes.

The day begins with the Town Crier blowing his horn, calling together the Hocktide Court in the town hall. The court elects the Constable and other officers, and two "Tutti-Men". Each "Tutti-Man" carries a tall pole with a bunch of spring flowers (a tutti) tied to it with rbbons. There is an orange on the top.

While the court continues, the "Tutti-Men" with their florally decorated poles are led through the streets by the "Orange-Man" to collect kisses from all the ladies resident in the High Street. The ladies receive an orange in return.

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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.