Plough Monday is an old celebration held on the first
Monday after Epiphany, or Twelfth Night.
Molly dancing on Plough Monday has been an important
ritual for agricultural workers in the east of England
The day traditionally saw
the resumption of work after the Christmas period. In
some areas, particularly in northern England and East
Anglia, a plough was hauled from house to house in a
procession, collecting money (often with menace). The
ploughmen were often accompanied by musicians, an old
woman or a boy dressed as an old woman, called the "Bessy",
and a man in the role of the "fool".
In the Isles of Scilly, locals would cross-dress and
then visit their neighbours to joke about local
occurrences. There would be "goose dancing" and
considerable drinking and revelry.
The Plough Monday customs declined in the 19th century
but have been revived in the 20th. They are now mainly
associated with Molly dancing and a good example can be
seen each year at Maldon in Essex
Children with blackened faces take part in the Plough
men dance at Mepal and Witcham Primary School on Plough
Blessing the plough during the celebrations.
bear an important part of the Molly Dancing and Plough
In the 1500's
Thomas Tusser wrote the following verse about Plough
"Good huswives, whom God hath enriched ynough,
forget not the feasts that belong to the plough:
The meaning is only to joy and to be glad,
for comfort with labour is fit to be had...
Plough Monday, nest after that twelftide is past,
bids out with the plough, the worst husband is last:
If plowman get hatchet, or whip to the skreene,
maids loseth their cocke, if no water be seen."
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