Plough Monday

By Plough Monday

Monday after Epiphany

Celebrated the first Monday after Epiphany, Plough Monday signifies the return to work following Christmastime.

Throughout the UK, it would be common in centuries past to see a plough being paraded through town centres on this day, as although Plough Monday marked the resuming of work, it was also something of a holiday itself. Agriculture workers would be back on the fields, yet their families would take an old plough, known as the Fool Plough, door to door and collect money, either for a charitable cause, or to buy the workers a drink that evening. This could be accompanied by a parade of performers and revellers.

Then Plough Monday reminded them of their business, and on the morning of that day, the men and maids strove who should show their readiness to commence the labours of the years, by rising the earliest.

William Hone, The Every Day Book

In parts of the country, sword-dancers and musicians would join the plough, along with two costumed characters. The Bessie would be dressed as an old woman, and the Fool would be covered in animal skins with a hairy cap and a tail. Other parade-members could be covered in ribbons. In Whittlesey, men dressed entirely in straw costumes known as Straw Bears parade the streets instead of a plough.

Plough Monday has had something of a resurgence since falling out of favour during Victorian times, and towns such as Whittlesey still hold their own parades. Elsewhere, Morris dancing or guise dancing are integral to the celebrations.

William Shayer, The Plough Inn
William Shayer, The Plough Inn, Public Domain