England has a fair share of traditions, some strange, some normal.
On the 5th of November, annually, people gather to set off fireworks and sit around a bonfire. However, what is the reason behind this?
It started 400 years ago in 1605. At the time, the Christian community was run by protestants (with a protestant king), and the Catholics were hated. A group of Catholics, including Guido (Guy) Fawkes, plotted to blow up the houses of parliament with the king and government inside. The plan went awry, and Guy Fawkes was caught, tortured and hung, drawn and quartered.
Every year, England celebrates the demise of the traitors by burning effigies, setting off fireworks, and having large bonfires.
Cooper Hill Cheese Rolling
Moving onto the stranger side, The Cooper Hill cheese rolling is an annual event in which a wheel of cheese is rolled down Cooper Hill and people chase it. The first person to cross the finish line at the bottom gets the wheel of cheese. The competitors aim is to catch the cheese, although the cheese does get a head start. The hill is 200 yards long. The true history is unknown but there are two theorised origins. First, that it may have evolved from a requirement for maintaining grazing rights. The second is that it may come from pagan origins where they would roll burning brushwood down the hill to celebrate the new year.
On the 1st of May, people raise poles around the country and dance around it. Between 1350-1400 AD, maypoles were raised to hang garlands in 1588, at Holy Trinity Church and would gather around the ‘summer rod’ for feasting and drinking. The symbolism for maypoles is still ambiguous. It is theorised that it might be a representation of the world’s axis. Another theory says that, they may be a remnant of sacred trees in Germanic beliefs like Thor’s Oak and Irminsul. This also links to Norse mythology in which it is believed the universe is a world tree known as Yggdrasil. In more recent years, it is seen as a communal symbol to bring communities together.