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Destination UK: 5 Unusual Festivals


The United Kingdom boasts rich cultural variety and history and because of this, the people of the UK have various age-old festivities that may or may not be known to the rest of the world. But while a number of these festivals are a bit unusual, all of these festivals manifest the UK’s complex and fascinating history. Here are equally interesting festivals in the UK:


1. The Dunmow Flitch Trials

The Dunmow Flitch Trials exist to award a flitch of bacon to married couples from anywhere in the world, if they can satisfy the Judge and Jury of 6 maidens and 6 bachelors that in 'twelvemonth and a day', they have 'not wisht themselves unmarried again'. This means that the married couple have neither “transgressed” nor had a brawl, nor offended each other in deed or word in twelve months.

Couples deemed sucessful win a flitch/hunk of bacon and are carried on the shoulders of men throughout the village.

A reference to The Dunmow Flitch can even be found in The Wife of Bath's Tale within Chaucer's 14th century Canterbury Tales.


2. The Hunting of the Earl of Rone

The Hunting of the Earl of Rone is one of over 500 unique calendar customs that take place at various times of year throughout England.  Banned in 1837, for recklessness and drunken behaviour, the Hunting of the Earl of Rone was revived in 1974.

Over the four days of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, the Grenadiers, Hobby Horse, Fool and villagers hunt through the village for the 'Earl of Rone', finally finding him on the Monday night.  He is mounted back-to-front on a donkey and paraded through the village to the sea. He is frequently shot by the grenadiers and falls from the donkey only to be revived by the Hobby-horse and Fool, re-mounted on the donkey, and carried onwards to his fate.  At the final shooting on the beach, he is not revived, but thrown into the sea.


3. The Padstow Obby Oss

Padstow in Cornwall celebrates Mayday in a unique way, and the custom that has been carried out by Padstonians over centuries has not been allowed to die out. The exact origins of the tradition is unknown, but like other festivals during spring it is thought to be connected with the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane.

Mayday in Padstow starts at midnight on April 30th, when its inhabitants sing to the landlord of the Golden Lion Inn. They then carry on singing as they move around the town until the early hours of the morning.

The following day, some people are up early collecting flowers to display around the town. Tree branches are tied to lamposts and drainpipes. By around 8am children start to parade their obby oss’s in preparation for the main event. The maysong is played by accordianists and drummers while the supporters sing along.


4. Up Helly Aa

On the last Tuesday of January every year, the menfolk of Lerwick, Shetland put on horned helmets, light flaming torches and stride through the streets to set fire to a longship. Up Helly Aa, Europe’s biggest fire festival, draws crowds from around the world keen to witness a seemingly authentic Viking celebration in this most Scandinavian part of the UK (Shetland was part of Norway until the fifteenth century).

In fact, Up Helly Aa has no direct Viking roots, having developed in the late 19th century as a sort of novelty New Year party. This relatively recent provenance doesn’t prevent thousands of tourists from descending on Lerwick to see the day-long celebrations, which begin in the morning with a march and end with 900 burning torches being launched into a replica Viking ship, followed by a ceilidh.


5.Fireball Whirling

Scots are renowned for their gusty celebrations over New Year, or Hogmanay as it’s known in Scotland. Few celebrate more enthusiastically than the inhabitants of Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire a small fishing town in the North East of the country.

Braving the bitter cold just before midnight on the last day of the year, more than 30 Stonehaven residents parade through the streets twirling enormous balls of fire about their heads, accompanied by a local band of bagpipers. At the end of the parade the fireballs are hurled into the North Sea and the people begin to ‘first foot’ their neighbours, rushing from house to house for a dram of whisky.



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