Hock Monday

By David Teniers the Younger, Rural Feast

Monday after Low Sunday

Following Low Sunday and the Octave of Easter, Hock Monday signalled the start of Hocktide in the medieval calendar. Hocktide was a two-day festival which, for the lower classes who were attached to domains by lords, meant one of few precious holidays throughout the year.

The festival is closely linked to the massacre of the Danes in the year 1002 by the Saxons. As retaliation to frequent Danish raids, King Æthelred the Unready ordered all Danes living in England to be executed. Though this took place on 13 November 1002, in British folklore it became linked to the Tuesday after Easter celebrations had ended. As was customary, festivals began the night before the day itself, so in effect Hock Eve became Hock Monday.

Hock Monday was for the men, and Hock Tuesday for the women. On both days the men and women alternately, with great merriment, intercepted the public roads with ropes, and pulled passengers to them, from whom they exacted money to be laid out for pious uses.

William Hone, the Every Day-Book: or the Guide to the Year

The main focus of Hock Monday was for men to tie up women with ropes and demand a kiss as payment for their release. It was a day of horseplay and foolery, with men taking the opportunity to flirt and show interest in women who they desired. Though the obvious sexual power imbalance was amplified within this situation, Hock TuesdayHock Day proper—reversed the roles, putting women in control. In some parts of the country ropes would be stretched across highways, with any women passing under it required to provide a kiss or a penny, with money raised going towards fabric funds for the local parish church. This was an illegal act, as the King’s highway required freedom of passage, however the practice was indulged as part of the Hocktide festivities. In some regions the days were opposite, with women catching men on Hock Monday, though this does not appear to have been widespread.

Hocktide was banned by Henry VIII, who also outlawed the Feast of Fools, though it continued to take place unofficially as Rope Monday and Binding Tuesday. Elizabeth I reinstated it in the national calendar, though it again died out and was gone from public recollection by the Victorian era. The only surviving Hocktide celebrations take place in Hungerford in Berkshire on Hock Tuesday.

David Teniers the Younger, Rural Feast
David Teniers the Younger, Rural Feast, Public Domain
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