Green Bogies – May Bank Holiday Traditions

Blog on british May bank holiday traditions

So what are your plans this May Bank Holiday? Hoping that it will not be raining for a family day out? Visiting friends or family? Making the most of your time in the garden or tackling the long running list of DIY jobs? Possibly hiding under the duvet with a good book? Well, sorry I have a list of what traditionally we should be doing and we are going to be very busy.

Firstly, we are going to get up early, before sunrise which is 5.28am this Monday. We will gather flowers and greenery to decorate our houses and village because we believe the vegetation spirits will bring us good fortune.

While we are gathering our flora we will wash our faces in the early morning dew so we will be very beautiful for the rest of the year.
When that is done, we shall then make our May Garlands, gather two hoops, one at right angles inside the other and wrap round leaves and flowers through them. If the fancy takes us we shall dangle our Sindy or Barbie doll in the middle of the hoops to represent the goddess of Spring.

If we are in Oxford we shall gather round Magdalen College Tower to hear the singing of a Latin hymn or carol, the bell will chime, and the Morris Dancers will start clattering their sticks and wiggling their bells.

We shall join in with the procession through the village all joyous and happy, celebrating the coming of summer, although we have a sneaking suspicion we have had our week of summer already back at the beginning of April. We shall be dressed in our best dresses, surrounded by chimney sweeps, a Jack in the Green (a great big walking bush from what I can gather) and his attendants, the Green Bogies. Yes my children are giggling at this one as well.

Time to pop on our dancing shoes and go dancing round our Maypole, obviously we have been practising for weeks so we can beautifully and artistically dance and weave a plait of ribbons round our birch wood pole without crashing into each other or bursting any of our blisters on our hands from all the flower arranging.

We will then wander through the village and marvel at the decoration around our well, when suddenly a gang of young men would lift one of us pretty girls (well we have been washing our faces in the early morning dew don’t forget) on a flower covered chair. I can’t help but picture snatching in Big Fat Gypsy Weddings with this tradition. The girl will be crowned May Queen and will then get to choose a boy on the 2nd May.

Time to gather and watch with wonder at the strength and prowess of the men in the village as they take part in the archery contest and possibly, if in Stilton, Cambridgeshire enjoy them compete for the tile of Stilton Cheese Rolling Champion. If you are not into cheese rolling you could watch the cheese chasing at Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire or, perhaps you are dairy intolerant, go for a spot of shin kicking in the Cotswolds. While further northwards we could end up having a prank played on us and having to shout ‘May Goslings past and gone, you’re the fool for making me one!’

Finally after much drumming, chanting, jingling, clapping, dancing, and possibly drinking we shall slay the odd walking bush called Jack so summer can be freed and return to warm the land.

I think you are right, long lie in bed it is for us. Enjoy your bank holiday. x

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