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  Annual Festivals and Seasonal Celebrations


Traditionally high days and holidays were governed by the dual influence of the seasons and the Christian calendar; however, some of our festivals have their origins in pagan rituals.  


Christmas is celebrated at the same time of year, as the Winter Solstice, the Germanic feast of Yuletide and the Roman Saturnalia, and many of its modern traditions, such as decorating the house with greenery and lights, the Yule log and feasting have their origins in these pagan festivals. During Victorian times, Christmas became a family celebration with new customs of exchanging cards and presents, visits from Santa Claus, and decorated trees - made popular by Prince Albert. 

Plough Monday to Easter

The agricultural year began on Plough Monday – the first Monday after the feast of the Epiphany, January 6 – when farm workers returned to the work after the Christmas holiday; traditionally this was accompanied by much feasting and frolicking.  

This tradition was still practised in Tickhill in the post years   and in 1949 the service was broadcast by the BBC on the North of England Home Service from a crowded St Mary’s Church. The plough was brought into church by farmers and ploughmen, under the direction of Eric Crane the leader of the Plough Team; the Rev. George Cook officiated, prayers were offered for a plentiful harvest, and the lessons were read by farmers, Jack Purdy and Frank Newborn. It was the second time the service had been broadcast from Tickhill.     

Shrove Tuesday followed with pancakes and races, and gave way to the austerity of Lent, which ended with Easter celebrations of eggs, fairs and games ushering in both Spring and the Resurrection. 

May Day and Whitsuntide

Originally May Day celebrations were unashamedly pagan: it was a festival of youth and fertility with garlands, May dolls and maypole dancing. It was revived in Victorian times with the old pagan influence being replaced by moral celebrations; it became essentially a children’s festival with parades, organised displays of Maypole dancing and the crowning of the May Queen.  Until the post-war years, May Day celebrations were always popular in village and rural communities throughout the country, and Tickhill was no exception.  

The School organised the day’s festivities, which began with a procession headed by the Queen and her attendants from the school to the Market Place, where a throne was placed under the Butter Cross, and the crowning ceremony was usually performed by the wife of the Headmaster. This was followed by maypole and country dancing in the Market Place before the procession re-formed and paraded to the cricket ground for the school sports, which included, a paint pot race, potato race, girls’ egg and spoon race and slow bicycle race, as well as traditional athletic events.  

The Thomas Kirkland Shield was an inter-school relay race, which involved other schools in the area: in 1934 the winners were Bircotes School. The same year the Weardale’ Shield (which may have originally been presented by Mrs Curtis, the long-term resident of Weardale on Northgate) was presented to Doreen Cooper for ‘constant effort in school throughout the year’. Other competitions often included fancy dress, best-decorated bicycle and junior country dancing. 

In 1935 and 1937, May Day celebrations were combined with celebrations for George V’s Jubilee and George VI’s coronation respectively; however, they were usually held around Whitsunday, which was also associated with Whit walks and parades, fairs and new clothes for children.  

Midsummer to Bonfire Night

Midsummer gave way to weeks of harvesting; until the mid 19th century the last cartloads of the harvest were celebrated by feasting and dancing - Harvest festivals, however, were a relatively new idea.  In 1843, the Rev. Hawker, vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall revived the ancient thanksgiving of Lammas, which had originally been held on August 1 when the first wheat was harvested; the date was moved to October when harvesting was complete and the idea of an Autumn Harvest Festival was established.  The custom rapidly spread to other parts of the country; churches were elaborately decorated and thanks were given for a fruitful harvest.  

Like other villages and rural communities throughout the country, Tickhill people celebrated in the same way; members of the congregation decorated the Church with fruit, vegetables and flowers, all given by ‘rich and poor alike’.  

The year ended with Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night, which was celebrated with the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes, the leader of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, and fireworks.

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