Cornish festivals

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Celebrating St Piran's Day in Penzance

The cultural calendar of Cornwall is punctuated by numerous historic and community festivals and celebrations. In particular there are strong links between parishes and their patronal feast days (which are often days not directly linked to official church patronal celebrations). There is also a tradition of holding celebrations associated with tin mining and fishing.

Modern community festivals[edit]

Since the 1980s there has been a development of community based festivals in Cornwall often named after a famous local resident. These have included Murdoch day in Redruth, the Daphne du Maurier Festival in Fowey, Trevithick Day in Camborne and the Montol Festival in Penzance. Other modern festivals include, Falmouth oyster festival, Newlyn fish festival, Lowender Peran in Perranporth, Dehwelans Kernow and many more.

In Moonta, South Australia, the Kernewek Lowender (Cornish for "Cornish happiness") is the largest Cornish festival in the world and attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.[1]

Historic festivals[edit]

The 'Old Oss' capturing a maiden at Padstow 'Obby 'Oss festival

The following list is of festivals celebrated past and present in Cornwall which can be traced back over 100 years or more, often these celebrations have considerable antiquity. These have been classified separately to the above because they form a part of a Cornish indigenous culture. There have been attempts and successes to revive these celebrations where they have fallen into disuse. Today many of these ceremonies are kept alive by members of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies.

† = Parish feast day

Historic festivals and feast days of Cornwall
Name Location Current Status Date
Allantide Throughout Cornwall Celebrated in some parts of West Cornwall - Largely replaced by Halloween 31 October
Golowan Throughout Cornwall in particular Penzance Revived in various forms 1920s, 1935, 1990 Around 23 June
Midsummer Hilltop Bonfires Throughout Cornwall in particular Kit Hill, Carn Brea, Castle An Dinas Revived in various forms from 1930 23 June
Furry dance Helston Continuously celebrated with a short break in the Victorian era 8 May unless a Monday or Sunday then Saturday before.
'Obby 'Oss festival Padstow Still celebrated Around 1 May
St Piran's Day Throughout Cornwall Originally a miners' holiday now Cornwall's national day 5 March
Nickanan Night also called Peasen Monday Throughout Cornwall Unknown - not publicly celebrated Shrove Monday
Tom Bawcock's Eve Mousehole Continuously celebrated before World War II and revived in the 1950s 23 December
Picrous Day East Cornwall Still celebrated in Luxulyan Second clear Thursday before Christmas
Chewidden Thursday West Cornwall Unknown - Not publicly celebrated First clear Thursday before Christmas
Madron Feast † Madron, Heamoor & formerly Penzance Still celebrated Advent Sunday and Monday
St Just Feast † St Just in Penwith Still celebrated First Sunday and Monday in November
West Cornwall May Day celebrations West Cornwall Revived since 2001 in St Ives and since 2008 in Penzance 1 May
Guise dancing Throughout Cornwall Still practised in some places including the Montol Festival in Penzance Christmas through to Twelfth Night and Plough Monday
Paul Feast † Paul, Mousehole and Newlyn Continuously celebrated Sunday nearest 10 October and week following
Sennen Feast † Sennen Still celebrated Advent Sunday
Crying The Neck and Guldize Throughout Cornwall Still celebrated September
Bodmin Wassail Bodmin Still celebrated New Twelfth Night (6 January)
Knill Ceremony St Ives Still celebrated (started 1801) 25 July (St James Day every 5 years)
St Keverne Feast † St Keverne Still celebrated Sunday nearest 18 November
St Breward Feast † St Breward Still celebrated Sunday nearest 22 February
St Day Feast † St Day, Carharrack Still celebrated End of June
St Buryan Feast † St Buryan Still celebrated Sunday nearest 13 May
Mevagissey Feast † Mevagissey Still Celebrated - Related to Golowan Around 29 June (St Peters Day)
Towednack Cuckoo Feast † Towednack Still celebrated Around 28 April
Goldsithney Charter Fair Goldsithney Still celebrated St James Day (Old Style) 5 August
Zennor Feast † Zennor Still celebrated Sunday nearest 6 May
Porthleven Petertide celebrations † Porthleven Still celebrated; Related to Golowan Near 29 June
Gulval Feast † Gulval Still celebrated Near 6 June
St Ives Feast (Feast Monday) † St Ives Still celebrated Sunday and Monday nearest 3 February
Hurling the Silver Ball St Columb Major Still celebrated Shrove Tuesday and then again on the Saturday eleven days later
Mawgan Feast † Mawgan-in-Meneage Still celebrated Near 8 June
Mullion Feast † Mullion Still celebrated Sunday nearest 6 November
Camborne Feast † Camborne Still celebrated Near 15 November
Sancreed Feast † Sancreed Still celebrated (Patronal church service) Early June
St Endellion Feast † St Endellion Still celebrated (Patronal church service) Sunday nearest May Bank Holiday
St Stythians Feast † Stithians Still celebrated; Agricultural show held on the following Monday Sunday closest to 10 July
St Allen Feast † St Allen Still celebrated but unknown to what extent 22 February (Traditionally Rogation Sunday)
Bodmin Riding Bodmin Still celebrated as part of Bodmin Heritage and Riding festival Late June or early July
Morvah Fair Morvah / West Cornwall No longer celebrated but Morvah Pasty Day takes place on the same date, claimed by some to be the largest Lughnasadh celebration outside Ireland 1 August
St Erth Feast † St Erth Unknown 31 October
Ludgvan Feast† Ludgvan Still celebrated Monday and Sunday nearest 29 January
St Hilary Feast† St Hilary, Cornwall Still celebrated Mid-January
Davidstow Feast† Davidstow Still celebrated 1 March
Gunwalloe Feast† Gunwalloe Still celebrated 3 March
Porthleven Feast† Porthleven Still celebrated 22 February
St Kew Feast† St Kew Still celebrated 8 February

References[edit]

  • Charles Henderson "Celtic Kalendar: giving the feast days of most of the parishes in the Diocese" in: Cornish Church Guide (1925) Truro: Blackford; pp. 9–16