The United Kingdom may only consist of four countries, but it offers an array of cultures and traditions. It’s clear that Brummies aren’t the same as Bristolians, while Geordies are different from Glaswegians. With 69 cities across the four nations it isn’t a surprise that our traditions vary. However, there are certainly some which are more outlandish than others.
Here, with LPG tank suppliers, we look at some of the strangest traditions on our shores and look at their existence and origins.
The Padstow Obby Oss
May Day in Cornwall is celebrated in a much different way to what the rest of the UK do. The Obby Oss, as it is affectionately known, traces back further than the 1820’s, with historians believing it holds links to the Celtic festival of Beltane. The carnival in Rio De Janeiro would face stiff competition from the small Cornish town, where locals spend the evening of the 30th April decorating the streets with flags and flowers, before two “osses”, one blue and one red, make their way through the streets, cheered on by onlookers joining in with the celebrations.
Heading far north Orkney, the island’s capital has held its ‘Ba’ since 1650. Described as more like a civil war than a game of football, the town, on Christmas Eve and Hogmanay, is divided in to two teams, the ‘Uppies’ and ‘Doonies’. The two squads, in the past, placed in their respective teams, thanks to where they were born in relation to the towns Cathedral.
Stuffing a leather ball with cork, this ball then navigates the town as players from either side try to land it in the net. There are referees who control the general flow of the game and ensure anyone who lands on the ground is picked up again however, the game is effectively without rules. There also exists a boy’s game and despite the fact the upper age limit is 15 years old, there is no restriction on how young the boy can be. If you choose to make the trip up to the tip of Scotland, this age—old tradition is certainly worth your time —watch on as whole town battles it out or look into joining the ‘Uppies’ or ‘Doonies’ yourself.
Eating the sheep’s pluck delicacy known as haggis is a commonly known tradition. Each year on the 25th January, or Burns Night as it is more commonly known, Scots tuck into haggis, neaps, and tatties as part of their celebration supper. However, a lesser known tradition about the nation is their annual participation in ‘Haggis Hurling’. The tale suggests that in the 17th century, when men were working in the fields during the day, their wives would cook them a haggis for their lunch and throw it across the river. The man would then use the front of his kilt, which is synonymous for not encasing underwear below, as a cushion to soften the blow of the meat and to prevent it from landing on the ground.
Nowadays, ‘Haggis Hurling’ is seen as a professional sport. Judges are on hand to award scores depending on the distance travelled by the delicacy and whether it can still be eaten afterwards.
In 1971, an upmarket department store called Fenwick’s started putting a festive spectacle in its shop window. The windows which line Northumberland Street in Newcastle Upon Tyne are adored by people of all ages, and the crowds arrive hours ahead of the big reveal day. In the past inspiration has been taken from children’s books such as Beatrix Potter and Peter Pan, and each and every year proves to be more outstanding than the previous year. While many people associate Geordie’s and Christmas time with night’s spent reveling in sub—zero temperatures (without a coat!), fairytale window claims top spot in the North-East as a tradition.
Peter Pan Cup
In 1904, James Matthew Barrie’s play debuted on the London stage. At this time, he donated the Peter Pan Cup to competitors of the Christmas day swim through Hyde Park. Open only to the experienced members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who have qualified throughout the season to guarantee a place in the event, the competition pits swimmers against one another in a 100-yard race in what can often be four degrees waters.
Northern Ireland is a country which is steeped in agricultural history, so a good agri-food show is a certainty. Starting in 1894, the Balmoral Show has, in recent years, relocated to the site of the Old Maze Prison camp. With more than 115,000 annual visitors, the show includes showjumping competitions, sheep shearing time trials, and a best in show category for livestock and equine. The three-day festival, which offers something for everyone, epitomises Northern Irish culture.
The Welsh Lovespoon
Sometimes the usual bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates, just won’t cut it. In Wales, if you’re trying to win the heart of the apple of your eye, a spoon, despite the fact it may seem unconventional, ranks higher than a teddy bear holding a love heart. Okay, so it isn’t just your standard tea spoon, but it is a spoon nonetheless. The piece of cutlery will usually feature a symbol, which translates into a meaning, such as an anchor for safety and dragon for protection.
The country’s gift shops will likely sell these so why not pick one up on your next visit?