Kichel throwing in Harwich, EssexAt roughly noon on the third Thursday in May the mayor of Harwich will stand at an open window of the council chamber in the town's guildhall. Not to make a speech, but to do something far more useful and enjoyable: throw food, or more specifically kichels, specially baked torpedo-shaped currant buns.
The word kichel is said to be Anglo-Saxon, so it is possible that the ceremony or its roots at least pre-date the Norman Conquest , and the giving of such 'bread' probably has religious connotations. Such small buns were traditionally given to children for luck, and the custom lives on in Harwich, as it is for (rather than at) children that the mayor launches the buns from his lofty perch. Why it should be the mayor throwing buns is not known - perhaps long ago it was a way of buying favour from the townsfolk (who should be aware that there really is no such thing as a free lunch), or perhaps a mayor in the distant past saw himself as a surrogate father to Harwich's children.
Further up the coast, in Aldeburgh , kichels were associated with New Year's Eve celebrations, harbingers of good luck to those who purchased them. Further north still Norfolk used to have a custom at Shrovetide of eating coquilles, currant buns of the more usual round-style, and it is not too fanciful to think that this may be a corruption of the word kichel, so the custom may have been far more widespread in times past.
More British Folk Customs?