N is for National and Local Customs and Traditions

Whether you are interested in Local or Family History it is interesting to find out about the customs and celebrations of the past. Some of these, such as Maypole Dancing on 1st May are countrywide, others are much more localised.

I have described some of my favourite celebrations here but there are many more. For its name alone Whuppity Scoorie, which takes place on 1st March in Lanarkshire, Scotland, has to be included. It involves children running three times round the church, wielding balls of paper on the end of a string. The origins are unknown but it probably relates to the coming of spring.

2 May 2011 Obb Oss Day teaser and blue oss 3

Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss Day 1st May

Then there is Beltane. This is a pagan fire/fertility festival is celebrated on 20th April. Two Cornish celebrations next. Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss Day on 1st May, when the blue and the red horses parade round the town, followed by their supporters. Followed by Helston Furry Dance or Hal an Tow, popularised by Terry Wogan as Floral Dance. Both are fertility festivals.


At Coopers Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire cheeses are rolled down the hill. This is another long standing tradition that has alternative suggested origins. This also take place in May. On 25th July, in Ebernoe, Sussex, the Horn Fair is celebrated. Currently rams horns are awarded to the highest scoring batsman following a cricket match. Nottingham’s October Goose Fair has a history that goes back 700 years. The November Lewes Bonfires, another Sussex celebration, commemorating not just the gunpowder plot but seventeen Protestant martyrs of the sixteenth century. Christmas Eve in Dewsbury, involves Tolling the Devil’s Knell. It was critical tp appease the devil at the darkest time of the year.

For more customs see here, or read Ronald Hutton’s Stations of the Sun: A History of The Ritual Year in Britain. Think about the celebrations or customs that might have been part of your ancestors’ lives, or may have been traditional in the place where you now live. Try to attend some of these festival, the atmosphere is usually something special. For an interesting discussion on this subject watch this video.


One comment on “N is for National and Local Customs and Traditions

  1. Birgit says:

    I love traditions and customs. Christmas alone has so many and so does weddings. I recall reading that the reason people placed cans on the carriage or car was to ward off the evil spirits. These you listed are great to read about and do:)

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