Monday, January 11, 2010

Plowing Through Monday

Today was the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so was known as “Plough Monday” or the day after “Plough Sunday” which was the Sunday following Epiphany. Got all that? Anyway, this was traditionally the day when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work. John Brand, in his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, gives an account of the formalities:

The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations.

Okay, maybe they didn't exactly get back to work right away.

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