Shick-Shack Day

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Shick-Shack Day (Royal Oak Day, Restoration Day)

Type of Holiday: Historic
Date of Observation: May 29
Where Celebrated: England
Symbols and Customs: Oak Sprig
Related Holidays: May Day ORIGINS

Also known as Restoration Day, Shick-Shack Day commemorates the restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660, ending the Puritan Commonwealth that had been introduced in 1649. After his defeat by the English Parliamentarians (also known as Roundheads, because they wore their hair cut short), Charles II hid in an oak tree near Boscobel to escape the soldiers who were pursuing him. He was forced to remain there all day, unable to speak or shift his position for fear of being discovered.

This event occurred in September of 1651. He was restored to the throne in 1660, much to the relief of most of the English people. He is particularly remembered at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, founded in 1682 as a refuge for old soldiers no longer able to earn a living. They celebrate their Founders' Day on May 29 by parading in his honor, by covering the statue of Charles II that stands in the center of the main courtyard with oak boughs, and by wearing a sprig of oak in their lapels.

Although it occurs at the end of May, Shick-Shack Day has much in common with MAY DAY . Maypoles are displayed along the streets of many English villages, and people dance around them much as they do elsewhere on May 1. Young women often bathe their faces in the early morning dew, and children bring branches and blossoms in from the woods-both popular May Day customs.

The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that this day takes its name from a corruption of shitsack, a derogatory name for the Nonconformists, Protestants who did not follow the doctrines and practices of the established Church of England. The term was later applied to anyone who didn't wear an oak leaf or oak-apple in memory of Charles II on May 29, and nowadays refers to the OAK SPRIG itself.

Shick-Shack Day is a holiday that commemorates a significant historical event. Peoples throughout the world commemorate such significant events in their histories through holidays and festivals. Often, these are events that are important for an entire nation and become widely observed. The marking of such anniversaries serves not only to honor the values represented by the person or event commemorated, but also to strengthen and reinforce communal bonds of national, cultural, or ethnic identity. Victorious, joyful, and traumatic events are remembered through historic holidays. The commemorative expression reflects the original event through festive celebration or solemn ritual. Reenactments are common activities at historical holiday and festival gatherings, seeking to bring the past alive in the present.

There are a number of local names for Shick-Shack Day. In some areas it is known as Oak Apple Day because people wear oak-apples as well as sprigs of oak leaves, Shick-Shack Day

and children gather twigs with oak-apples still attached and try to sell them in the streets. In the town of Ulverston, it is known as Bobby Ack Day-"bobby" referring to the knob-like oak-apple, and "ack" representing an older pronunciation of "oak." In other towns it is called Nettle Day, because children punish those who forget to wear an oak sprig by pushing them into a bed of nettles.

"The Royal Oak" is one of the most popular names for pubs in England today. The signs usually show Charles II peering through the leaves of an oak tree, looking more like a boy who's been caught stealing apples than a king escaping his enemies.


Oak Sprig

The sprig of oak worn by people on Shick-Shack Day is a symbol of the oak tree that concealed King Charles II when he was under attack by the Roundheads. The oak sprig also recalls the king himself, who was one of the most popular English monarchs and is still remembered for his many good deeds.


Chambers, Robert. The Book of Days. 2 vols. 1862-64. Reprint. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1990. Dunkling, Leslie. A Dictionary of Days. New York: Facts on File, 1988. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Hole, Christina. English Custom & Usage. 1941. Reprint. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1990. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.


BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Shick-Shack Day (Shik-Shak Day, Shicsack Day, Shig-Shag Day)

May 29
The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that this day takes its name from a corruption of shitsack, a derogatory term for the Nonconformists, Protestants who did not follow the doctrines and practices of the established Church of England. It was later applied to those who did not wear the traditional sprig of oak on May 29, or Royal Oak Day —the birthday of Charles II and the day in 1660 on which he made his triumphal entry into London as king after a 12-year interregnum.
The association of Charles II (1630-1685) and the oak tree dates back to 1651 when, after being defeated by Oliver Cromwell in battle, legend has it he took refuge from his pursuers in an oak tree behind a house known as Boscobel. Shick-shack has since become synonymous with the oak-apple or sprig of oak itself, and May 29 is celebrated—particularly in rural areas of England—in memory of the restoration of King Charles and his preservation in the Royal Oak. Also called Oak Apple Day, Oak Ball Day, Bobby Ack Day, Yack Bob Day, Restoration Day, or Nettle Day .
AnnivHol-2000, p. 90
BkDays-1864, vol. I, p. 696
DictDays-1988, pp. 14, 81, 83, 96, 98, 110, 134
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 364
OxYear-1999, p. 225
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.