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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

Calendar of unusual Customs and Traditions
in England, Scotland and Wales
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.

See also folk, facts and sayings about January

applesFirst Saturday in January

Wassailing, Old Mill Farm Bolney, Sussex
18:00 Apple Howling or Wassailing is an ancient custom in which the evil spirits are driven out and the good spirits are encouraged to produce a good apple crop for the following year's cider.

Second Saturday in January

Firle Wassail, East Sussex
18:00-23:00 Middle Farm BN8 6LJ. Hunters Moon Morris Men. Torch procession, bonfire, food, haystack stage, dance floor.

Click here to read more about Wassailing the apple tree

Twelfth Night (information about Twelfth Night)
There many customs and traditions which ake place on or around Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night Celebrations - London

Twelfth Night is an annual seasonal celebration held on the Bankside by Shakespeare's Globe, in London. It is a celebration of the New Year, mixing ancient Midwinter seasonal customs with contemporary festivity. It is free, accessible to all and happens whatever the weather.

The Holly Man
Click here to find out more

Mummers Plays

Mummers plays
Click here to find out more about Mummers Plays

Baddeley Cake, Drury Lane Theatre, London

On Twelfth Night the cast of the current play eat cake and drink wine in memory of an actor from the 18th Century who bequeathed money to the theatre's hardship fund.

Fireball-Whirling Ceremony, Stonehaven, Scotland

On the night of the Old New Year's Eve, young men whirl balls of burning rope around their heads.

Haxey Hood Game, Haxey, Lincolnshire -

In the 13th century a gust of wind whipped off the hood of the Lady de Mowbray.Farm workers chased and retrieved the hood, so delighting her that she ordered the pursuit be repeated.

Blessing the Plough

This church tradition can be found across the country, notably at Chichester and Exeter on the first Sunday after 6th January.

Plough Monday

The first Monday after Twelfth Night is Plough Monday, a day when ploughmen traditionally blackened their faces and marked the end of the Christmas period for the agricultural communities.


See Plough Monday for more information

Straw Bear Festival Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire
Weekend near Plough Monday
The Whittlesea Straw Bear is maintaining the folklore tradition of parading a man dressed in straw around the streets near to Plough Monday. Molly Dancers and Morris Dancers dance in the streets

Click here to find out more about the Straw Bear Festival

Mooly DancersStraw Bar
Click here to find out more about the Straw Bear Festival

Wassailing the Apple Tree, Carhampton, Somerset - Mid January

Wassailing the apple tree is one of the oldest traditions at Christmas time. Cider and cake is offered to tree feted as guardian of the orchard.

Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, Shetland

Largest fire festival in Europe, celebrated on the last Tuesday of January every year. Torch-light procession through the streets of Lerwick, followed by the burning of a full-size replica Viking longship.

Click here to find out more

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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.