The British are often accused of being reserved, aloof, and having a stiff upper lip, but there are a surprising lot of crazy British traditions that prove otherwise. If we let our hair down, it can only be fuelled by alcohol and apparently we suck in bed. I am here to dispel some of these viewpoints. One positive thing said about us is that we have a good sense of humour and produce great comedians but our comedy isn’t just left to the television or stage. We have some unusual traditions and pastimes that are sure to bring a smile to your face, so read on to learn about some truly crazy British traditions!
1. Bog Snorkelling
Do you understand the desire to don flippers and snorkel, and swim through 60 yards of foul smelly peat bog water? No, nor do most of us, but following a bet made in a pub in 1985, this has now become yearly event. The Annual World Bog Snorkelling Championships, definitely a crazy British tradition, take place in mid-Wales every August Bank Holiday.
2. Cheese Rolling
This is an annual event where a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese (the only flavour allowed) is rolled down Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, and is the prize for the 1st person over the finish line. The cheese actually reaches speeds of up to 70mph so it’s not as easy as it sounds. 2010’s event was cancelled because of safety fears for crowd numbers.
3. Bonfire Night
Also known as Guy Fawkes Night, every November 5 we light big bonfires and have firework displays. Most used to take place in our own backyards but nowadays the majority attend huge organised events. Atop the bonfire is an effigy of Guy Fawkes made from old clothes. Does it commemorate some fantastic event in our history such as a famous battle or the discovery of a new land? No, it remembers the day in 1605 when Guy Fawkes was arrested as he and conspirators tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Only the British could make a sport out of pulling faces. At Egremont Fair in our beautiful Lake District, people stick a horse’s collar around their neck and pull the ugliest face imaginable. People who can take their teeth out have a definite advantage over other competitors in this crazy British tradition.
5. Morris Dancing
Native Americans have the rain dance, New Zealand Maoris have the Hakka, Brazilians have the Samba, Spaniards have the Flamenco and Poles have the Polka – what do we Brits have? Morris Dancing. It’s all about wooden sticks, handkerchiefs and an inflated pig’s bladder. Steps are danced close to 2 cross clay tobacco pipes. Guess what? Men only and they wear trousers tied at the ankles with bells! It’s claimed to be a relic of druid and pre-Christian festivals.
6. Ladies Day
It’s not very often that a male dominated bastion such as horse racing gets overwhelmed by women, but Royal Ascot Ladies Day has become one such occasion. Not really an odd custom but I’ve included it here because it has become a tradition that the ladies dress up in the most enormous, gravity defying or unusual pieces of millinery and hats that somebody can conceive. I’m sure the men are still more interested in the fillies on the track than those in the grandstand but hey, we girls just love a chance to dress up.
7. Maypole Dancing
Stick a tall pole in the ground and attach ribbons to the top, then everyone grab a ribbon and dance round it. Yes, seriously. Done every May Day in countless Villages across Britain and usually coincides with the Crowning of the May Queen. Origins are disputed but it is thought to be related to fertility as the original May Queens had to be virgins.
8. Wellie Wanging
Now also played elsewhere in the world, the chucking of Wellington boots (gum boots) as far as you can, originated in the county of Yorkshire in Northern England. It’s now a sport with its own specific rules including the one stating the Wellie must be a Dunlop Green size 9 (Euro) but you do get to choose left or right yourself. One crazy British tradition that definitely makes us proud!
9. Maundy Money
Want some Royal dough? Get in line on Maundy Tuesday and a personage no less than our Queen will hand you some. It’s the one and only time when the Queen personally handles money and also the only time she gives an award outside of Buck House. You have to be a pensioner chosen by the church, but don’t worry about missing out too much because it’s only a gift worth about $10, although sets of the specially minted coins can reach $150-$200 on eBay.
Missing from this list of crazy British traditions are the Horn Dance, the Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Football Match, Blessing the Throats, Eating Stargazey Pie on Tom Bowcock’s Eve, Turning the Devil’s Stone, the Annual Conkers Championships, the Olney Pancake Race and the Mad Maldon Mud Race to name just a few. Check some out on the internet and if you find a weirder one let me know. Does your country or culture have any crazy traditions you'd like to share?
Top Photo Credit: static.guim.co.uk