May Traditions - Oak Apple Day

Oak tree traditionsIn country folklore, May is a really exciting time, traditional countryside festivals like May Day celebrations symbolise both the end of the harsh winter and excitement at the hopefully fruitful year ahead. And in the garden, May is no less of an exciting time; new life abounds, excitement at the first May flowers and blossom.

However the month of May is also home to one or two more unusual practices. For example, I was reading about a rather peculiar old May tradition, which is most- definitely a little out of the ordinary. That is the very ‘Cheeky’ tradition which gets the name ‘pinch-bum-day’- yes I’m not kidding it is actually real. On the 29th of May, it is traditional to celebrate the return of King Charles the II by wearing an oak leaf or an oak apple leaf, anyone caught not wearing a leaf is liable to have their bottom pinched, kicked or could even be slapped with nettles!

It is said that in after the battle of Worcester 1661, it was an Oak Tree in the grounds of Boscobel House, Staffordshire in which King Charles hid to protect him from Oliver Cromwell and the round head army. And since it became a tradition (and was once a public holiday) to celebrate King Charles’ escape by wearing an Oak Leaf on the 29th of May and anyone caught not doing so could be pinched or nettled.

Although the public holiday was abolished in 1859, Oak Apple Day continues to be celebrated in some parts of England. In reality though, we think this old tradition it’s just an excuse to slap someone who you don’t like with nettles (we’d never do such a thing anyway - honest) but nevertheless it still sounds like fun.

So my suggestion for this May, if you do just to avoid getting your bum pinched or any nettle slapping get yourself an oak leaf from an oak tree or even an oak apple leaf. I will certainly be wearing an Oak Leaf come the 29th May.