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Royal Oak Day

Also called 'Oak Apple Day'.

The Oak has always been associated with folk and tradition and was considered sacred.

This particular day celebrates Charles II being restored to the throne of England after the Civil War with Cromwell. Oak became a symbol of Charles and the restoration since an Act of Parliament in 1664 declared the 29th May (the King's birthday) to be observed as a day of thanksgiving. The Oak is a reference to the King's escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 when the King hid in an Oak tree at Boscobel (Staffs). The tree is now the Royal Oak and it spawned hundreds of pubs bearing the name. Sadly, the holiday was abolished in 1859.

Practices on Royal Oak Day included young men wearing oak leaves or sprigs and decorating church steeples with oak branches. If young men did not wear the oak, they would be stung with nettles by the others (Kirkby Lonsdale) or in some areas, have their bottoms pinched (Pinch-Bum-Day - Sussex) or be beaten with oak branches (Kendal). In Yorkshire birds' eggs were raided to throw at those who did not wear the oak. In some reports, oak garlands were strung with birds' eggs as part of the celebration.

It is the day of the Castleton Garland Dance, and events take place in other villages and towns (Upton-on-Severn, Northampton, Kendal in Westmoreland and Aston on Clun amongst others). The general celebration seems to have lost popularity by 1880. In Wishford Magna (Somerset) there is a custom that on Oak Apple Day, locals could gather wood by a charter which confirmed the existence of this privilege from 'time out of mynde'. Originally a Whitsuntide custom, it was moved to Oak Apple Day in the 17th century. The locals cut wood at dawn and process to Salisbury Cathedral where they dance on the green.

The day is also known as Shick-Shack Day in some parts of England. A Shick-Shack may be a dialect word for Oak apple, possibly Gloucestershire but it has been suggested that in line with other terms for the day relating to the punishment of non-loyalists (e.g. Nettle Day) that it is a reference to a term for dissenters - Sh*t Sack (Foklore 1999).