Hock Tuesday

By David Teniers the Younger, Village Festival

Tuesday after Low Sunday

Once the Easter celebrations had concluded, Hocktide took place over the Monday and Tuesday after Low Sunday in the Middle Ages. The chief day of celebration was Hock Tuesday, and was a key holiday as well as a day when rents were payable.

Hock Tuesday is likely an interpretation of the Saxon massacre of the Danes, which was ordered by King Æthelred the Unready as retaliation to frequent coastal raids. On 13 November 1002, every Dane living in England was killed. It has also been linked to the death of King Harthacnut, the last Dane to rule England, on 8 June 1042. Harthacnut, or Canute III, inherited his kingdom from his father, Cnut the Great, who won the throne of England in 1016. Cnut the Great, or King Canute, is now known for demonstrating the limits of his power by commanding the tide to recede despite knowing it would not, which he used as an example to show his courtiers that he was fallible even as King. Though the dates of these events are not the same as Hock Tuesday, they were linked through folklore and Hock Day became associated with what was at the time seen as English victories over the Danes.

Hock Tueſday Money was a duty that was paid to the landlord, that his tenants and bondmen might celebrate Hock Tueſday which was the Tueſday seven-night after Eaſter week.

N. Bailey, An Univerſal Etymological English Dictionary: The Twenty-ſixth Edition

On the preceding day, Hock Monday, men would have tied or bound women with rope, demanding a kiss or money as payment for their release. On Hock Tuesday the roles were reversed, and so women were able to catch and hold hostage men of their choosing. Men would offer a kiss or pennies to be released and the day was seen as flirtatious horseplay. It was not uncommon for ropes to be drawn across highways, restricting the legal freedom of passage assigned to the King’s highways in an illegal but humoured act, to stop travellers. Those who were held up by the rope would pay in kind or cash, with any money raised put towards fabric funds for the parish church. It was well recognised that women would raise more money on Hock Tuesday than men had on Hock Monday. In some parts of the country, the days were reversed and men were catching women on the Tuesday of Hocktide, though this appears to be considerably less widespread as the majority of historical records written at the time note men were the prey on Hock Day.

Hocktide eventually fell out of favour, though it continued strong through the Middle Ages despite being banned by Henry VIII and was later restored by Elizabeth I. Hock Tuesday is still celebrated in Hungerford, Berkshire, where it is also known as Tutti Day. Tutti Men are elected to go door to door to collect rent or kisses, carrying wooden staffs topped with flowers and oranges called Tutti Poles, and are accompanied by the Town Crier and an entourage who give out oranges.

David Teniers the Younger, Village Festival
David Teniers the Younger, Village Festival, Public Domain
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