Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

The English Year

A recently published book is a very useful addition to the library of anybody interested in English folklore.

"The English Year" is compiled by Steve Roud, and published in 2006.

The wording on the front cover encapsulates the book's content. It reads "A month-by-month guide to the nation's customs and festivities, from May Day to Mischief Night".

It takes the form of a calendar, going through the year from January to December in date order, with articles about some of the many customs celebrated in England, sometimes nationally and sometimes in a fairly small local area.

Some of the major periods of the year, including Easter and Christmas, are given special colour-coded sections of their own, which go into some depth about the meanings of these periods, both religious and otherwise.

Looking at random through the months, I find St. Hilary's Day on 13th January.St. Hilary, an important thrological writer, has a legal session, Hilary Term, named after him, and his day is reputed to be the coldest of the year.

On the first Sunday in February, Holy Trinity Church in Dalston, London, has a colourful Clowns' Service, where present day clowns celebrate the life of Joseph Grimaldi, who was buried nearby.

Penny Loaf Day is on 11th March. During the Siege of Newark in 1644, Alderman Hercules Clay dreamed on three separate nights that his house was on fire, and took this as a warning from God. He accordingly moved his family out, whereupon his house was burnt down. In gratitude, he arranged for penny loaves to be distributed to the poor every year on this day.

"The English Year" is full of nuggets like this. It is a superb book.