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Plough Monday

The first Monday after 6th January (Twelfth day) when farmworkers went back to work to begin ploughing for the new sowing. It was a time for a custom when ploughs were decorated and blessed. The decorated plough would be paraded through the village and young men would knock on doors to ask for money, food or drink (in common with the Morris tradition). The would be a fool with pig's bladder, a Bessy (man-woman) and often a play - similar to the Mummers and with the typical elements of death and resurrection.

The money at one time may have been to maintain plough lights (church candles) but the candles and blessing were thought to have been abolished by the Reformation of the church in the 16th century. The custom lived on though but suffered the usual fate in the mid 19th century with the decline of rural life in general. It was widespread in the East Midlands and North East of England, leading some to conjecture a link with the Viking influence (Danelaw) and Sword dancing but this is more than likely to be coincidental.

The performers of the sword dancing and plays are called variously "Stots" (Yorkshire), "Bullocks" (Nottinghamshire) or "Jags". In the Fens and East Anglia they were sometime "Plough Witches". Plough Monday is associated with Molly Dancing in East Anglia.