Plough Monday, EssexFor 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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