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Events | Lore & Legend | Rather Interesting | Cultural Britain

Plough Monday, Essex

For many centuries in Britain agriculture was the most important part of the economy, the biggest employer, and of course the activity standing between the nation and starvation. A folk custom that it appears originally emphasized the significance of agriculture, most notably with the blessing of the communal plough stored in town and village churches, later progressed to a boozy celebration of the role of farm labourers, was – and is – Plough Monday, an event that was observed predominantly in the eastern counties.
The tradition survives in the Essex town of Maldon , which claims to trace it back to 1522 – elsewhere there are records going back at least a century earlier. On the first Monday after Twelfth Night there is an evening procession from pub to pub , Molly Dancers with blackened faces part of the scene – traditionally there should be men dressed as women involved, the British love an opportunity to indulge in cross-dressing, and others dressed in costumes with straw protruding. The older part of the thing is observed too, with a plough blessing in the church of All Saints .

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