Monday, March 18, 2013

Guest Post - Spring Has Almost Sprung

(Hi friends! Today's post is brought to you by the Expat Hub, which is a Taylor approved expat site full of guides and articles! I'm super excited for them to be talking about spring time! Minus the fact that it's been so cold here lately... Seriously, it was colder here than it was in Wisconsin! Regardless, Spring is going happen sooner or later, so let's talk about it!)

Spring has almost sprung; it’s time for festivals and celebrations

With spring literally being just around the corner many towns and villages are preparing to celebrate the end of the winter and the beginning of a hopefully hot spring. The UK is an extremely old nation and as such some of the traditions we are about to list have been held on a yearly basis for hundreds and hundreds of years, Some even date back all the way before the Norman invasions in 1066! Here are just a few of the most fun and well known.

Flora Day (Helston, Cornwall held on May 8th) 

Every year on the 8th of May (unless the 8th is a Sunday) the town of Helston located on the Lizard peninsula of Cornwall welcomes huge crowds of visitors to watch the ancient Furry dance. The town is covered in bluebells as up to 1,000 dancers make their way through the colourfully decorated streets.

The day sees four dances with the most famous being the children’s dance and the adult’s mid-day dance. The men are decked out in top hats and tails. The women wear their best frocks. The band plays as the dancers weave their way through the offices and on up the main street. No one's quite sure anymore how it all began, but local legend says that it is a celebration of St Michael’s victory over the Devil. The town of Helston itself is named after the giant rock the Devil threw at the archangel in battle. Where the rock landed became Helston or ‘Hells stone’.

The Furry dance is believed to be one of the oldest British customs still being practised today possibly making it over a thousand years old! 

Cheese Rolling (Stilton, Cambridgeshire held on the first Monday in May)

The Stilton Cheese Rolling Festival is one of the year's highlights in the small Cambridgeshire town of Stilton. Participants compete in rolling large rounded blocks of wood along the high street for a prize of cheese and bottles of port. Many of the teams compete in fancy dress and although the sport has become better-behaved in recent years, you will still see a fair wince inducing tumbles and falls. It's a knockout competition with quarters, semis and a grand final, so you're in for a full day's entertainment.

Sweeps Festival (Rochester, Kent held on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of May)

The town of Rochester celebrates and commemorates the chimney sweeper. In the days of the industrial revolution men and boys would do the messy job of cleaning and unblocking the chimneys of the coal burning houses and factories.

The annual festival recreates the joy and laughter enjoyed by the chimney sweeps as they celebrated the only day of the year they could take a day off. The modern festival is a mix of music, dancing and entertainment and sees up to 60 groups of Morris dancers and other entertainers celebrate throughout the three days of the festival.

Obby Oss (Padstow, Cornwall held on the 1st of May)

The first day of May In the small town of Padstow is Obby Oss day. The origins of this ancient tradition are lost in the midst of time but it is thought to be some form of ancient fertility festival. the town is dressed with greenery, flowers and flags, with the focus being a maypole. The climax arrives when two groups of dancers progress through the town, one of each team wearing a stylised recreation of a 'horse.' The two 'osses are known as the "Old" and the "Blue Ribbon" 'osses.

All of the Padstow born folk traditionally dress in white with their family loyalties dictating whether they follow the Red Old Oss or the Blue Oss.

Cotswold Olimpick Games (Gloucestershire held at the end of May)

400 years ago in the Cotswolds lived Robert Dover, a man who was fascinated by the tales of the ancient Greek Olympic Games. His love of those games inspired him to begin the Cotswold Olimpicks, an event that has been held every year since. Events include wrestling, jumping, sack races, dancing and the infamous shin kicking contest (yes it really is as painful as that sounds!). Before the days of health and safety competitors from rival villages would meet with iron tipped boots or coal hammers acting as shin guards, back in the day many a leg was broken.  Thankfully today’s event is a lot less brutal. The games also see plenty of music and other activities.

This guest blog was provided by The Expat Hub, a top online stop for expatriate advice, support and information.

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