The English Year

Front cover of The English Year by Steve Roud.I have added a second book to my monthly readings to help me keep my New Year’s resolution of getting back to simplicity and seasonality. This book is called The English Year and is by Steve Roud. The English Year details ‘traditional’ customs and festivals occurring across England over the successive months of the year.

In amongst the better-known festivals of St Valentine’s Day and Shrovetide we can celebrate St Scholastica’s Day on the 10th. The festival commemorates Scholastica, sister of Benedict (founder of the Benedictine monastic order) who is believed to have power over storms. More sinisterly the day has been traditionally remembered in Oxford for an altercation between the townsfolk and the university students in 1354 over some bad wine that led to a “pitched battle” over several days and the killing of over sixty students! Can you imagine the headlines?! It must have been some pretty bad wine. Amongst other punishments the townsfolk were ordered to process to the university for a service of penance every St Scholastica’s day and to pay an annual fine of sixty-three pence (a penny for each student killed). Incredibly this tradition continued for over 400 years, only ending in 1825.

A slightly more fun custom to keep is Pully Lug Day (the Friday after Ash Wednesday), on which you are allowed to pull people’s ears without being told off. I’ve always known this as Kissing Friday but I’m equally open to Pully Lug Day, although it might be nicer to spend the day kissing folks than pulling their ears. I suppose you could always do both!

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