Garland Day

Garland Day

May 12; May 29
On May 12, or Old May Day, the children of the Dorset fishing village of Abbotsbury still "bring in the May." They do this by carrying garlands from door to door and receiving small gifts in return. The May garlands are woven by a local woman and her helpers, who are regarded as the town's official garland-makers. Each garland is constructed over a frame and supported by a stout broomstick, which is carried by two young people as they go about the village. Later, the garlands are laid at the base of the local war memorial.
At one time this was an important festival marking the beginning of the fishing season. Garland Day used to center around the blessing of the wreaths, which were then carried down to the water and fastened to the bows of the fishing boats. The fishermen then rowed out to sea after dark and tossed the garlands to the waves with prayers for a safe and plentiful fishing season. This ceremony may be a carry-over from pagan times, when sacrificial offerings were made to the gods of the sea.
Another Garland Day celebration is held in Castleton, Derbyshire, on May 29 or Shick-Shack Day. The Garland King (or May King) rides on horseback at the head of a procession of musicians and young girls, who perform a dance similar to the Helston Flora Day furry dance. The "garland" is an immense beehive-shaped structure that fits over his head and shoulders, covered with greenery and flowers and crowned with a special bouquet called the "queen." This is laid at the war memorial in Castleton's marketplace.
CONTACTS:
Visit Britain
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SOURCES:
AnnivHol-2000, p. 81
DictDays-1988, p. 46