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10 Very Strange British Traditions

ChrisJB . . . Comments

Britain has a long and varied past – it has been conquered repeatedly, it has conquered others, and it has colonized half the planet. Through its history, many strange traditions and festivals have arisen. This list looks at ten of the most unusual.




The Egremont Crab Fair – one of England’s weirder events – gets its name from crab apples rather than the marine variety. It started back in the 13th century when the Lord of the Manor gave away crab apples to the populace. In fact, to this day, the Parade of the Apple Cart, where apples are thrown into the crowds on the Main Street, is part of the fair. There are a host of other non-mechanized, traditional events – greasy pole climbing, a pipe smoking contests, a talent show, Cumberland wrestling, a hounds trail. But lets face it, the reason Egremont makes the news every year is the gurning competition. Home of the Gurning World Championships.

Gurning, involves a rubber-faced skill that is totally bizarre and unique to this part of England. Contestants put their heads through horse collar or braffin while they create the ugliest, most grotesque faces they can manage. A certain amount of skill is involved but a lot of beer and a certain amount of toothlessness probably has an impact as well. Celebrities occasionally have a go and the national news usually features the winning gurners. If you are in Cumbria visiting the Lake District, nearby, in September, stop in at the Egremont Crab Fair. You won’t see anything like this anywhere else and you won’t soon forget it.


Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill


The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual event held on the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester in the Cotswolds region of England It is traditionally by and for the people of Brockworth – the local village, but now people from all over the world take part. The event takes its name from the hill on which it occurs. The 2010 event has been cancelled due to safety concerns over the number of people visiting the event but it is hoped that it will be held on the late May Bank Holiday in 2011. Due to the steepness and uneven surface of the hill there are usually a number of injuries, ranging from sprained ankles to broken bones and concussion. Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling has been summarized as “twenty young men chase a cheese off a cliff and tumble 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to hospital”.


Maypole Dancing


Maypole dancing is a form of folk dance from western Europe, especially England, Sweden, Galicia, Portugal and Germany, with two distinctive traditions. In the most widespread, dancers perform circle dances around a tall pole which is decorated with garlands, painted stripes, flowers, flags and other emblems. In the second most common form, dancers dance in a circle each holding a colored ribbon attached to a much smaller pole; the ribbons are intertwined and plaited either on to the pole itself or into a web around the pole. The dancers may then retrace their steps exactly in order to unravel the ribbons.


Pearly King and Queen

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Pearly Kings and Queens, known as pearlies, are an organized charitable tradition of working class culture in London, England. The practice of wearing clothes decorated with pearl buttons originated in the 19th century. It is first associated with Henry Croft, an orphan street sweeper who collected money for charity. In 1911 an organized pearly society was formed in Finchley, north London.


Guy Fawkes Night

Lewes Bonfire, Guy Fawkes Effigy

Guy Fawkes Night (or “bonfire night”), held on 5 November in the United Kingdom and some parts of the Commonwealth, is a commemoration of the plot, during which an effigy of Fawkes is burned, often accompanied by a fireworks display. The word “guy”, meaning “man” or “person”, is derived from his name. Guy Fawkes (13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606), also known as Guido Fawkes, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish in the Low Countries, belonged to a group of Catholic Restorationists from England who planned the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Their aim was to displace Protestant rule by blowing up the Houses of Parliament while King James I and the entire Protestant, and even most of the Catholic, aristocracy and nobility were inside. The conspirators saw this as a necessary reaction to the systematic discrimination against English Catholics.

The Gunpowder Plot was led by Robert Catesby, but Fawkes was put in charge of its execution. He was arrested a few hours before the planned explosion, during a search of the cellars underneath Parliament in the early hours of 5 November prompted by the receipt of an anonymous warning letter. Basically it’s a celebration of the failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.


Ascot Ladies Day

Ascot Ladies Day 6

Ascot Racecourse is a famous English racecourse, located in the small town of Ascot, Berkshire, used for thoroughbred horse racing. It is one of the leading racecourses in the United Kingdom, hosting 9 of the UK’s 32 annual Group 1 races, the same number as Newmarket. The course is closely associated with the British Royal Family, being approximately six miles from Windsor Castle, and owned by the Crown Estate. Ascot today stages twenty-five days of racing over the course of the year, comprising sixteen Flat meetings held in the months of May and October. The Royal Meeting, held in June, remains a major draw, the highlight being the Ascot Gold Cup. The most prestigious race is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes run over the course in July. What makes this so special is that every year the fashion, specifically the hats get bigger, bolder and damn right weirder as the photo illustrates.


Bog Snorkeling

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Yes indeed, you read correctly, bog snorkeling. If any of you ever doubted that us Brits are mad, this should make up your minds for you. Basically participants dive into a bog, wearing goggles, a pair of flippers and a snorkel, they then proceed to race each other along a 120ft trench filled with mud. Held every year the participants come from all over the world and raise lots of money for charity.


Straw Bear

Whittlesey Straw Bear

Straw Bear (Strawboer) Day is an old English tradition held on the 7th of January. It is known in a small area of Fenland on the borders of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire, including Ramsey Mereside. This day is believed to be traditional start of agricultural year in England. A man or a boy wears a straw costume covering him from his head to toes. He goes from house to house where he dances. As prize for his dancing people give him money, food or beer.


Worm Charming

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Worm charming is a way to of attracting earthworms from the ground. Many do it to collect bait for fishing. But there are also those who do it as sort of sport. The village of Willaston, near Nantwich, Cheshire is the place where since 1980 the annual World Championships have been organized. The competition was actually initiated by local man Tom Shufflebotham who on the 5th of July, 1980 charmed 511 worms from the ground in only half an hour. The competition has 18 rules. Here are just few of them. Each competitor competes in the 3 x 3 meters area. Music of any kind can be used to charm worms out of the ground. No drugs can be used! Water is considered to be a drug (stimulant).


Morris Dancing

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A Morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers. Implements such as sticks, swords, and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. In a small number of dances for one or two men, steps are performed near and across a pair of clay tobacco pipes laid across each other on the floor.

  • tripsyman

    Why call this list "10 Very Strange BRITISH Traditions" when everything on it is English centred? Don't Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have any strange traditions? Before I read the list I knew the other 3 British countries would be ignored.

    Am I being a petty Scot? Not when I read about "England" winning WW1 / WW2, what about the part the other home nations played. The Scottish / Irish/ Welsh who died – don't they deserve to be remembered. Not when I hear sports commentators calling people like Andy Murray English. Not when I am abroad and all I hear is "so you are from England".

    Why can't people understand that England is not Britain and Britain is not England.

    • Anji

      I'm so sorry, I meant to give you a thumbs up!!! I too am Scottish and I agree with you 100%!!!

    • Matt8291

      Thanks for saving a Welshman from typing the exact same thing!
      The interesting thing is that before the 1930's, it was acceptable to call Britain "England", but with the rise of Scottish nationalism that fell out of favour, the yanks just never got the memo. It does really piss me off too, especially, as you rightly said, in the context of wars that apparently only England fought in. I think that us non English Brits should all club together and buy some TV adverts in the US explaining this. Or we should start calling them Canadian/Mexican and see how they like it.

    • Dan

      Northern Ireland isn't Britain

      • Egg

        yes it is. look it up

        • Chineapplepunk

          Depends on your religious or political leanings, especially if you are from there.

          • Liam

            Well I AM from there, and I can tell you, regardless of your political leanings, Northern Ireland is in the UK, not Britain.

        • Steve

          I suggest you look it up. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, but it is NOT part of Britain which is only England, Scotland and Wales.

    • Mark

      Bogsnorkelling is most famously done in Wales, although the article doesn’t say it.

      • Sarah

        I’m welsh and Iv never heard of it

  • monkey3137

    cool list:d

  • deezer26

    Great list. Some of these are just plain weird! But it makes for really interesting reading. Thank you.

    • someone who notices bullshit

      I’ve read so many of these generic ‘first comments’ that honestly they could all apply to any list and i am more and more convinced that people are just randomly posting them and hoping that they relate to the list in question.
      Good grief.
      The world really aggravates me

      • someone who notices bullshit

        Hey – how come you guys didn’t censor the word ‘bullshit’ ? Is freedom of speech finally back or was it a mistake?
        ‘Cause you know, swearing is an offense that should really be punishable by advertising companies – er – i mean, law.
        he he

        • someone who notices bullshit

          Hey, serious fault in your message posting system. I can write any obscene and offensive ‘word’ in my ‘name’ and I wont be censored but in my actual post I am?
          Sort it out listverse.
          You guys are great but keep succumbing to all this bullshit.
          oops there it goes again!

          • dickarsebitchcuntwankfuckcockanaltits

            hee hee

          • It’s an issue that Jamie has been trying to sort out with wordpress for a while. No one likes it, but it’s just the way it is. You aren’t the first to notice that particular fault, by the way.

    • someone who notices bullshit

      Fair enough.
      Brilliant site, by the way- one of my favorites ever.

  • astraya

    I was about to suggest that surnames like Shufflebotham are a very strange British tradition, but I just checked the Australian telephone directory online and found that there are 6 Shufflebottoms in Australia (no doubt migrants from, or descended from migrants from, Britain.

    Many long British names have abbreviated pronunciations, eg Featherstonehaugh is pronounced “Fanshaw”. There’s an old joke about one man announcing himself to a receptionist: “My name’s Cholmondeley, spelled c-h-o-l-m-o-n-d-e-l-e-y, pronounced ‘Chumley’.” The next man said “Ooh-ah, my name’s Bottomley, spelled b-o-t-t-o-m-l-e-y, pronounced ‘Bumley’.”

  • it’s amazing that bait shops do so well here in the american south….
    never again will i pay for worms when i can just charm them right out of the fucking ground for free

  • mkoua

    This list is too British.

  • liberalgal8006

    this is a very interesting and different list.

  • ldux

    Another unique British tradition: Del Day

    Leave Bears:

  • vazy666

    I myself am British and we do have some very strange and unusual customs and traditions but thats the essence of being a true englishman. God save the Queen,British and proud of it!

  • tripsyman


    You mean to English right! :)

  • astraya

    And what about the people from Commonwealth countries who died in WW1/WW2?

  • Lifeschool

    oops, appearantly Trick or Treat comes from the U.S – I didn't know that.

    • Chelle

      Penny for the guy is British, i’m sure.

  • tripsyman

    @vazy666: Your comment backs up everything I just said.

  • Give it some welly

    “A certain amount of skill is involved but a lot of beer and a certain amount of toothlessness probably has an impact as well.” :-)

    Worm charming, I remember when I was a kid, my dad used electricity to “charm” worms in the backyard when he went fishing. He would be smoking a cigarette and occasionally yell “stay out of the garden” at me :-)

  • vazy666

    @tripsyman: I’m actually half english and half scot

  • ldux

    @vazy666: I’m actually half english and half scot

    Is your real name Stewart Lee?

  • Remember remember the 5th of November the day we will never forget..3 cheers to Guy Fawkes!

    • Giggler

      "3 cheers for Guy Fawkes!" for attempting to murder hundreds and install a dictator?

      Side note, when discovered Guy Fawkes was takento the top of the bell tower and held on Big Ben with the guards lined up his genitals to where the gigantic hammer strikes the bell. They held him there for a reported 12 minutes until the bell struck a quater past the hour….Ouch!!!!!!!

  • dno46

    #3 – The most famous location to see The Straw Bear is the fenland town of Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire. Known as The Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival it is held on the first weekend after Plough Monday (the first monday following twelfth night) and features a man and child dressed in a straw bear costume parading around the town followed by a procession of morris dancers. On the Sunday the straw bear is burnt. For more info visit

    • Juri

      Hopefully burned without the man or child inside… O_o

  • tripsyman


    Quote “I myself am British and we do have some very strange and unusual customs and traditions but thats the essence of being a true englishman”

    You may well be half english and half scot but you speak of BRITISH customs being the essence of a true englishman.

    You are proving my point that people (usually the English) speak of England when they are referring to Britain and vice versa.

  • Arsnl

    @tripsyman: i think we need some trolling here so here i go: oh give us a break. Do we really need to know? You remember me of them south americans that keep shouting hey stop calling the us america. America is a country. Big whoop.
    @mkoua: just yesterday i thought while reading the comments. Wow no “too american” lines or jokes. Thanks for spoiling it now.
    @astraya: how about everybody else who died in ww2 and ww1. Btw i never reallt understood why gloucester is read gluster or leicester lester.
    @Give it some welly: why charms worms with electricity when you can use it directly to fish :-) and how do you charms worms with it?

  • Give it some welly


    two metal poles, some wire, and a lot of current. Works like a charm :-D

  • vazy666

    @tripsyman: so are you Scottish British or both?

  • Give it some welly


    Who in his right mind would apply electricity directly to catch fish?!?!?

    (we have dinamite for that)

  • I think the British have the distinction above all other nations of being able to put new wine into old bottles without bursting them.

  • coocoocuchoo

    @Geronimo1618: three cheers to guy fawkes? the day is celebrating that Guy Fawkes was arrested and King James survived. ‘Remember, remember the Fifth of November,The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,I see no reason Why the Gunpowder Treason Should ever be forgot.’

    • Tom

      He was a Royalist – the target was parliament as it had undermined the Royal prerogative, not James

  • dannypaxton123

    @23 i think you have the distinction above all other people of being the bigggest crettin on earth

  • @coocoocuchoo: Heh heh I know, I just made up something what I liked. And ‘V’ supports Guy Fawkes, therefore so do I :)

  • watchdog2020

    This list is to British-LOL looks like The Straw Bear people could turn into ‘Burning Man’ and any moment.

  • samwm27

    For a teenager in London, Bonfire Night seems to consist of going to a field with a massive fire in the middle, then dissappearing into the nearby woods with your girlfriend (or, depending on who the person is, anything in a skirt!) and, well, you can gues the rest. The funniest thinnis that in London you start thinking your 16 when your 12. So it goes nearly straight from being scared of the fireworks to making out behind a tree! Is it the same in the U.S.?

  • oouchan

    I really liked this list. Always interesting to see what others do with their spare time. :)

    Would like to try the cheese rolling….sounds like a lot of fun. hehe

  • Sega

    So far the comments are better than the list itself..

  • amnyc

    Re: #1 (Morris Dancing)- one of the bizarre things not mentioned above is that some believe the origin of the name comes from “Moorish” Dancing- possibly explaining why some communities’ version of the dance involves wearing blackface.

    Also, one strange British tradition you missed: marmite. Perhaps JFrater would like to discuss the merits of British vs. NZ varieties?

  • abielectric

    Guy Fawkes Night (or “bonfire night”), held on 5 November in the United Kingdom

    In Northern Ireland we don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes and instead have a bonfire on the 11th of July for a different reason.

  • damien_karras

    I’ve never chased cheese… but the day is not over yet.

  • rjd4

    If you want to see plenty more weird British (yes, I mean British) traditions track down a copy of “In Search of Lost Gods”. I’m afraid it’s well out of print now and my copy dates from 1979. The author tracks down a huge number of strange traditions, highlights some common themes, and argues that many of them date back to pre-Christian rituals.

    title: “In Search of Lost Gods”
    author: Ralph Whitlock
    pub: Phaidon Press
    isbn: 0-7148-2018-0

  • jordan0250

    should have been named ’10 very strange english traditions’ but a good list anyway nicely done

  • I’m British and proud but these traditions make me feel a little embarrassed.

  • gigo70

    You forgot the burning of virgins in Wicker Men :-)

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    @tripsyman: Or you could just suck it up…

    Really like the list, especially the straw bears.

  • bigpappajake

    cheese rolling sounds like it could be fun ive seen it on tv here in the states befor, but thats cool i like knowing what they do over there in the mother land

  • weidermeijer

    And here in the United States we celebrate with college girls flashing their tits for a t-shirt! Sometimes I love traditions.

  • samanthaf63

    Hey, who’s seen “Morris: A Life in Bells”? I haven’t yet since I’m on the wrong side of the pond, but it’s supposed to be a scream. It’s a mockumentary in the style of “This is Spinal Tap” and is recommended for anyone who loves mockumentaries or England or morris dancing.

  • forsythia

    Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
    I see no reason
    Why the Gunpowder Treason
    Should ever be forgot. :)

    Love it. V for Vendetta is my favorite movie.

    Question about Guy Fawkes Night. Are they celebrating the fact that it didn’t happen or the idea Guy Fawkes had?

    • vicki

      they're celebrating the fact that Guy Fawkes was caught and burned at the stake. Basically a celebration of burning Catholics for the good of the state. Mentals.

  • Lifeschool

    Hello folks. Nice list; most of the major traditions are covered – although there are many more. I know All-Hallows-Eve is celebrated all around the world but I wanted to mention it because I live a stones throw from Pendle Hill (famous for the lancashire witches).

    Maypole dancing appearantly originates from a very old pagan fertility rutual (perhaps to honour their Gods in the hope of a good harvest, or even ‘fertility’ as in human fertility?) and remains an obvious phalic symbol even now. (the tops of a maypole are often bell/spades shaped).

  • mchrismmx

    Just saw two of these on featured on tv last night, cheese rolling and Guy Fawkes. When they discussed Guy Fawkes, they were featuring the part where they fill a barrel with tar, light it on fire, and have a kid run around with the flaming barrel on his backs, swapping it off to another kid like a burning baton. The kids kept swapping to other kids until the thing was falling apart (and their clothes were starting to catch on fire). What they didn’t bother mentioning was why on earth they do this. Anyone have any clue about this part of the tradition?

  • Lifeschool

    oh, and Richard Hammond once did a spectacular (literally ‘explosive’) reconstruction of the Guy Fawkes story called something like ‘The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding the Legend’.

  • meltsintoair

    @Lifeschool: i live near pendle too :) it certainly adds something to halloween. on that subject, i wonder if other countries do ghost walks at all. it seems to be something every town and city does in Britain, but i’ve never encountered it abroad.

    • Booboo

      we live in Australia now (lived in UK all my life up until 6 years ago) and have discovered Ghost Walks about 20 minutes from where we live SW of Sydney, a small place called Picton, they do Picton Ghost Tours, along a disused tunnel!! The history here is so NEW though, not at all like you get back in England/Britain.

  • Yawyack

    @tripsyman: Whoever mentioned the World Wars or Andy Murray? England is apart of Britain, as is Yorkshire. Yorkshire has a very similar population as Scotland, yet I don’t hear Yorkshire being mentioned on the list. If you have something from the other home nations that deserves to be on this list then mention them.

    @tripsyman: Because Scotland has such a tiny population in comparison to England. The Scots and other home nations are just victims of when people generalise the UK. Its nothing sinister.

    @amnyc: Marmite is eeeevil!

  • Yawyack

    @forsythia: The fact it didn’t happen. We even burn an effergy of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire. V For Vendetta really shouldn’t be forming people’s opinions on Guy Fawkes. I’m not aiming it at you, but I have heard it a few times…

  • spartie

    evil evil morris dancers…

  • Lifeschool

    @meltsintoair: Hey – small world! Good point about ghost walks. I was going to say most of the list items (ex. #6 & #1) aren’t found ’round these parts, but I know ghost walks on H’een are and are popular. I wonder if the world also knows about ‘Trick or Treat’?

  • What americans need to learn is that the majority of brits have NO INVOLVEMENT in these events and therefore should not be stereotyped as such.

    And we also have quite good teeth, and a lot of us hate tea.

  • tripsyman


    First its not about Andy Murray or the Wars its about EVERY achievement by my country and countrymen being attributed to another nation through ignorance. Ask any other scot (or welsh/irish person for that matter) and they will agree with me 100%.

    Second Scotland is a country, an independant nation with it’s own laws and parliament – Yorkshire on the other hand is a place in England.

    Third it may not be sinister but my God it really gets on my tits after 43 years.

  • cdssmac

    I should point out that Bonfire Night is really a celebration of the last time anyone entered the Houses of Parliament with honest intentions.


  • smaj7

    I really didn’t find this interesting… It lacked a certain WOW factor that’s ever present on this website!

  • mom424

    Pretty cool list. I was familiar with a few of these – we do Guy Fawkes day in Canada too. I’m certainly hoping that your bogs are much more sanitary than the ditches in our agricultural areas. Wouldn’t want to swim in them unless you were wearing a hazmat suit.

    @Lifeschool: well not so obvious to me. :) But yes, makes perfect sense; all those sweet young maidens dancing around a giant decorated willy. All dressed up like swiss milk maids – at least that’s my mi.

  • SwampGuy

    I have to wonder if at least some of locals for these events (particularly the straw bear one), don’t think “Oh geez, not this again…”.

    @Tripsyman: I do not think you are being petty and in the future I will try to remember not to make that English=British error.

  • Arsnl

    @Lifeschool: wooow somebody really loves his/her penis. You see it everywhere dont you?

  • Yawyack

    @tripsyman: Look on previous lists on this site and you will generally find Scots named as Scottish and Englishmen known as British. That’s hardly not giving Scotland its due. It just seems to lack any consensual consistency in what Scots/Irish/Welsh/English what to be known as. As our respected home nations or as British? I prefer the latter.

    Is the World Wars the forces are either known as British or British and Commonwealth. The other example, Andy Murray, is very famous for being Scottish on account of him being so successful at playing what is considered a middle-class English game.

    Scots don’t need to fight for their accomplishments to be recognised. We know what an achievement such a small nation has being able to accomplish (Especially, dare I say it, since it has being united with England). There is the famous adage that the Scots invented everything (except kilts, bagpipes and whiskey). Scotland is appreciated south of the border whether you realise it or not.

    The only people I see getting confused calling the UK England are foreigners rather than those south of the border.

    Scotland may have its own laws and parliament but is that any different to a US state? Scotland and England have not being a country or independent since the Act of Union 1707. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. May the union be preserved.

  • deeeziner

    To be a traditionalist in England must require a huge costume cabinet.

    But it must be a lot of fun. Seems here in the US all we celebrate are the major holidays, and most founder’s days for each town. County fairs as well, but none of these events have huge traditions.

    Frog jumping, cricket spitting, cowchip tosses, and pig races…now there’s some fine fun.

  • Lifeschool

    @mom424: Hi mom, great comment! I found this web page just for you; – it talkes about maypoles (with an appropriate image) about a third of the way down.

  • devonsfridge

    God Save The Queen!

  • devonsfridge

    Halloween is american. And we british know that. But it’s good fun, even if it is american (most of us get completely hammered on halloween.) But guy falks night is just as much good fun and thats british.. :)

  • devonsfridge

    We used to do maypole dancing at lower school. It was fun.

  • astraya

    Some languages (eg Korean) don’t have a separate word for “(Great) Britain” or “United Kingdom” in contrast to their word for “England”, so refer to the part and the whole by the same name – in Korean “Yeong-guk”. It was very hard for me to explain to them the geographical and political terminology of the islands to the north-west of the European continental mainland.

    My ancestors came from various parts of Great Britain and Ireland (we have traced England, Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland, and my surname strongly hints at a Welsh connection). If anyone asks me what I am, I say “Australian of mixed British Islands descent”.

  • Arsnl

    @astraya: woow great to know that. Now i have something of real interest to tell my friends. Thanks, my social life will sky rocket.

  • forsythia


    Hey, thanks a lot for enlightening me! Yeah, I didn’t think he was a sweel guy or anything, I just liked movie. :)

  • @Lifeschool: (50)(52):
    –i am from washington d. c. and live 45mi from new orleans and they do ghost walks in both places (in georgetown and the garden district, respectively)…they also do them in charleston, sc among other cities…..
    — trick or treating has probably become a bigger social phenomenon in the u.s., but its origin came from england and ireland….um…im a little sketchy on this, but i know it had something to do with dressing up as the dead and praying for their souls….the door to door bit was analogus to christmas caroling….the begging and/or recieving food bit comes from the medieval practice of the poor recieving goods for the prayers of the souls of the dead. the term trick-or-treat is canadian…..the u.s. joined in a few years later….somewhere in the northern midwest…..probably chicago
    the only thing that i never understood is that the europeans who started this practice did so on all hallows eve……once it got to canada, and subsequently, the u.s. the socially acceptable time to do this became halloween night….and i dont have any idea what the change in date is all about

  • @deeeziner:
    they race pigs and toss cow shit?
    where the hell do you live?
    i mean…i believe you
    but i went to state and county fairs and i have never ever ever ever seen anyone spit crickets…..
    thats fucking crazy sounding…..

  • sorry about the extra post, but i just re-read my last comment…
    in no way shape or form was i implying that bog snorkeling, cheese-rolling, or gurning werent any less crazy sounding…..

    your ascot ladies day sounds similar to u.s.’s kentucky derby……ultra important race, rich important people, weird women in fucked up crazy ass hats……..

  • astraya

    @Arsnl: I am very honoured to help you in some small way. Please let me know if there’s anything more I can do for you.

  • rowena

    @oliveralbq: The name Halloween is a shortened form of the day’s original name, All Hallow’s Eve, or All Hallow’s Evening.
    It becomes fairly obvious that they are the same day when you consider the fact that All Hallows (or All Saints) is the first of November, the day after Halloween.
    So when the custom of trick or treating moved to the North America, the date stayed the same but what it was called was different – though the name may well have changed in Europe also.

  • fluffhead234508

    hahahaha english people crack me up

  • @rowena:
    –well, shit……that does make perfect sense….
    somewhere along the line i got the impression that when it originated, medieval folks went door to door on 01november, and when it moved over, somehow, for some reason, people started going door to door on 31october instead, at what time trick or treating, as its known in present day, was born.. *thats* what i didnt understand…..

    you read 18000 lists in a 3 year span, and little details do get jumbled sometimes…thx for the clarification

  • cazzazz

    Item 11 – The Teddy Toss (I fear this may be endemic to sleepy East Sussex villages though.)

    Children of the village enter their favourite teddy bears to be simultaneously thrown from the tower of the local church and whichever bear lands first, wins! What do they win though I hear you say? A bottle of plonk usually (the parents of the winning child, not the child itself.)

    Great day out. FACT.

  • Lifeschool

    @devonsfridge: “Halloween is american. And we british know that.” – interesting theory. I went over to wiki to check this out and this is what it said: “Some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain [original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in). The name is derived from Old Celtic and means roughly “summer’s end”]. The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Eve, that is, the night before All Hallows Day.”

    Well I suppose that settles it – it’s either Iron Age Celtic or Roman – which means it could have originated practically anywhere in Western Europe between 1200BC and 476AD.

  • deeeziner


    I’m guessing that you are going for the humorous/sarcastic response…..if not, Goggle them, for they seem to be televised somewhere or other each year.\

    As for Cowchip throwing….my favorite rule of play is the one that states:

    “A licking of the fingers, before the second throw is mandatory.”


  • @astraya:…I was about to suggest that surnames like Shufflebotham are a very strange British tradition…
    astrara, I went to kindergarten in Sydney with a boy named Peter Ramsbottom. I don’t know what kind of teasing he’d be in for there, but back here in the U.S. he’d probably be begging to have it legally changed by 14!

  • deeeziner


    “…I went to kindergarten in Sydney with a boy named Peter Ramsbottom. …”

    Or he’d be running from Randall, Bucslim and Maggot at the very least!! :)

  • @deeeziner: (77):
    –my response was primarily sarcastic, although leaning toward bewilderment at cricket spitting…..honestly, never seen that one….
    however when i googled it per your suggestion, i found out that i havnt been to a fair of any kind since cricket spitting was “invented” 13 years ago, so it goes into the “learn something new everyday” section of my head
    alas … deprived of yet another classic

    oh….and your cowpatty throwing rule…..thats funny for real………nasty as shit….but funny

  • I knew about most of those except for Gurning and Straw Bear Day. In the US, we also try “worm charming”. I should go to a town where a festival for it is held and watch, I find it odd that music can “charm” worms from the earth.

  • k1w1taxi

    @tripsyman: Everyone knows Andy Murray is British… until he loses or throws a monumental tanty, then he is Scottish. :D


  • gw1pcd

    @19 Btw i never reallt understood why gloucester is read gluster or leicester lester.

    Add to that Towcester pronounced Toaster, Worcester as Wooster, but Cirencester as Siren-ces-ter. Mind you, Americans pronounce K-A-N-S-A-S as
    Kansas but when they put AR in front it becomes Ar-ken-saw. Why not

  • nicoleredz3

    Interesting… Haven’t heard of items 1, 2 and 3! Learned something new.

  • DogBitez

    Fun list! I think if a Straw Bear showed up at my door, it’d scare the bejeebers out of me. Love it!

  • mrsmarvel

    The maypole dance is nothing more than phallic worship – love it!

  • GTT

    @amnyc: Is marmite anything like vegimite? Because I can just feel the bile rising up in my throat….

    @deeeziner: Great, thanks… Licking fingers and cow poop all rolled into one gory mental image… Here comes the puke…

  • pithlitt

    Can’t remember where/when I heard/saw/read that the tradition of dressing as ghosts, ghouls and goblins came from the Celtic/Druidic custom. All Hallows Eve was a trime when the barrier between the netherworld and our own was very thin and demons of all kinds would be roaming the earth, and if you absolutely had to go outside that night, you would dress as one of these demons so you wouldn’t be recognized as human, and would be left alone to go about your business. To not be dressed this way would likely mean a nasty death at the hands of the devils minions. Anyone else know of this?

  • pithlitt

    I have vague memories of the Maypole dance with the ribbons as a kid in England. I recall a very twisted and knoted bunch of ribbons. Someone would always goof up on the unwinding part. Ahhh, the good old days…

  • Cant be asked to read all the other replies. But Huntingdon is a town in Cambridgeshire. There is no Huntingdonshrie. Its like saying that there’s loads of desert on the border of Nevade and New Las Vegas…..

  • bluesman87

    wow this was a cool list , made me try to think what traditions my cultural group have ( english speaking white south african) for the life of me i cant think of any except – making fires cooking loads of meat and drinking too much – but thats a national obsession so it dosent really count – would be cool to see follow up lists paticularly of Scotland and Ireland thats where my familys are from

  • grbinc

    ooopssssss m sorrry by mistak i clicked the 1st comment as report abuseeee neways m sorryyyy …..nd reallyyyy unsual thngs brits hav2 their credit hmmmm

  • juliet

    omg why cant it be easy for anyone to understand that england scotland ireland and whales and different countries and together they make britain.
    I agree, being scottish myself that this is a lise about england.
    england love to put scotland down and vice versa. Its what we do, though sometimes its just not needed like with the andy murray being scottish and when he wins hes classed by the english as british as that includes all the countries so will stop england from looking bad. so when he loses he becomes scottish to the english just so they can look good.
    it just seems to be a british tradition to compete with each other, when we are all united but we are all very patriotic from where were from.

    and for the scots
    yes its been found we never invented the stereotypical things you would image us to have. its just been found that haggis may infact not of been invented in scotland.
    what we do know is the tv, telephone, penicillin and many other things. they always seem to be forgotten about these days.

    As for halloween i never knew about any of that apart from that its obv on 31st oct as it is the eve of all saints day.

    If you wanna go on a good ghost hunt head up to edinburgh.
    its ment to be the most haunted place in the britian, but dont hold me to that part.

    and why on eath would the comment about yorkshire and scotland being compared. if you live in the uk you clearly know that living in yorkshire means your in england and that scotland is a different company.

    all the confusion does get a tad annoying

    sorry but i just read all the comments and i relise this isnt taught very well to other countrys. its just one of the uk’s little quirks

  • Charlotte H

    I say that all this is a big ball of poop! No one does any of these things! I don’t and I have lived here in Britain for 14 years now I I don’t know anyone who does that stuff! I mean Cheese Rolling, Maypole Dancing and I CAN’T EVEN SAY IT!Bog Snorkeling! Ha! No one does that kind of stuff!


    @monkey3137 [1]: IT SOOOOOOOO ISN’T!

  • Brighton Early

    bless your heart – us nasty english not paying you scots enough attention and giving you enough credit. It’s supposed to be a United Kingdom come on lets be friends

  • Patty O’Heater

    To the twat who calls him/herself mkoua: you said “This list is too British.” Had you read the title (10 Very Strange British Traditions) that might have given you a clue as to the nature of the article. What a tosser. I assume you are American, so translate tosser as wanker and you will perhaps understand how stupid you are.

  • Matt

    Charlotte, I beg to differ.
    I spent just 7 years in England, outer London specifically.
    I recall doing Maypole dancing at school, it was part of the Harvest festival as I recall. Which was a lovely tradition that involved children picking fruit and gathering food, then going off to give it to the elderly (and to spend some time with them).
    I saw Morris Dancers at many street parades. I saw quite a few Pearly Kings and Queens in the east end.

    And I definitely remember Gurning and Cheese rolling on TV (not as a sport, more as a yearly humorous news item.)
    Bog swimming is in the same category, but is quite a recent development. (20 years old?)

    But my absolute favourite as a child was Guy Fawkes.
    You take your dads old clothes, sew them together in the shape of a man, then stuff it with newspaper and paint a silly face on it. Then everyone builds a huge bonfire with your “Guy” on top, and sets fire to it. Then everyone lets off fireworks and runs around with sparklers, while the adults drink beer. Everyone cheers when “Guy” catches fire.

    Almost every nation has some sort of event focussed around fireworks. America has the 4th of July, which celebrates independence. England has Guy Fawkes, which celebrates a victory over terrorism.

  • anthony

    lol i love how americans (not every american) make fun of cultures and traditions from all around the world and forget to mention that one of their great tradition is to wait for a groundhog to look for it's shadow and determine the length of winter…….i mean how bizarre is that lol.

  • halloweenquuen

    Excuse me but Halloween is A British festival, just made more commercial by the yanks.
    We celebrated it Lancashire as children over 40 years ago by apple bobbing and telling ghost stories and parading down streets dressed as ghosts with carved lanterns.
    It annoys me greatly that Americans claim it as their festival when it has Celtic origins.
    In the UK we don't dress as Tinkerbell or Politicians but as horror creatures and ghosts and the range of activities to celebrate it are always spooky and varied.

    • bolbo

      while on the right track, Halloween is actually derived from the Irish festival of Samhain. Halloween has only been celebrated in Britain rather recently and probably as a result of US influences, any celebration in Lancashire likely has its roots in the influence of the large proportion of Irish immigrants in that area of England. Nonetheless, this I find the use of the word "bizarre" in this list strange given some of the traditions that people in America have…

  • Jay

    Yeah, we stole Halloween(Hallowed Evening) from the Europeans. But we left Walpurgisnacht alone. What's up with that? Anyway, the idea of Halloween is to dress up as a scary monster. This year a lot of people will go as Lady Gaga, so we finally got it right.

  • lol

    now i wish i live england

  • evie

    do you not have bonfire night in america? your missing out, it’s great!

  • griff

    Conquered repeatedly? Not for almost 1,000 years I’ll have you know

  • Plod

    Ah Good Ol’ England Proud To Be A Nutter

  • Sophie

    I grew up in Essex (which is the county North-East of London for any non-UKers) and when I was at primary school we used to put on maypole dances at school summer fetes. It was quite fun. I don’t think they do it anymore, which is a shame.

    • Sophie

      Haha it censored the word E$$ex!

  • tozza

    im british and the only one of those events i know is guy faukes night which we call bonfire night

  • Dom

    What about penny trees?

  • LucyM

    I’m from Gloucestershire where the cheese rolling happens and I have not yet met one person who finds it weird! It’s just normal to us I suppose, though I can see why people would find it odd

  • andt

    I live in Nantwich in Cheshire, and have never heard of worm charming.

  • Pep

    Its good to see the Straw Bear in this list – details aren’t exactly correct though..
    It is in fact not held on the 7th January but the second weekend of January with events going on for most of the week leading up to the main event on the Saturday and concluding with the “burning of the bear” on the Sunday where the straw costume is set on fire. The main festival is held in a small town called Whittlesey (where I live) near Peterborough and is surprisingly not that well known outside the town (although morris dancers and folk musicians/performers etc do travel from all over the country to join in). Over recent years our straw bear has been joined by a slightly smaller one from Germany as they have a similar festival (not the one in the picture; the german one is wrapped differently – the picture is the big bear and the baby bear). For the most part of the Saturday access to the town is restricted as many roads are closed for the procession where hundreds of locals & performers parade around the streets behind the bear.

  • folkadot

    These aren’t British – they’re English. There are some pretty strange Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Manx etc etc traditions. But all the above 10 are English, without doubt. Get it right.

  • maziya kamil

    wow, it’s strange and at the same time it’s fun reading it too.this is going to help me in my research,thank you lovely.

  • Alex

    In wierd and anarchist Hay-On-Wye (Town of Books) I seem to remember them burning a dude in a crown instead of a Guy. Some people celebrate the fact that he tried, rather than the fact that he failed.

  • amiee

    this is not a very good website and not all British people do these things i think whoever made this theory should ree think this and I did not find any correct information on this website.

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  • Sabrina

    I’m English Welsh and Scottish. I have to say my fellow Welshies and Scots, you need to stop being babies. I’ve noticed that for instance in the Olympics scots (I remember that bike rider Chris someone) was asked about competing and winning for scotland. It was an English person asking. Stop bribing babies and get on with your lives!

  • Sandman23

    Straw bear costumes would make good ghillie suit outfits :D

  • meerkat16

    I’m English and for those who aren’t english I must confirm that these are all true but most only happen once a year in specific places (we don’t do these things weekly you know.) Great list!!!

  • Miss. Bhumika Oswal

    thank u very much i want 2 knew the tradition so i can make project for school exhibition know its very easy to make for me. If you have any idea to make project on UK tradition so please send me in 2 days.

  • Mr Fallout

    Being English myself I can’t really see the nostalge in them, which is a shame seeming as they’re almost all ridiculous.

    But as someone else pointed out, they’re all English (appart from the Welsh bogsnorkelling), what about Kabre tossing? Decent list though.

  • KS

    My birthday is on Bonfire night! :D Also, I am British and I’ve only ever heard of 2 of these. Also I thought Morris dancing was from somewhere else.

  • anononanon

    Cant believe they missed out all of the BRITISH traditions such as sheep shagging and liver suicide.