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The Rites of Spring

Spring conjures up ideas of meadows filled with flowers, frolicking through sunny days and picnics and a general joie de vivre in the air.. the perfect time for a G&T with lots of ice! However, there are some truly bizarre spring rituals that, gin in hand or not,  were  historically practiced to welcome in the season.. here are three of my favourites;

Morris Dancers

As far as I can tell, this s a selection of grown men insight pants, wearing bells, waving hankerchiefs at each other and dancing in circles. There are records of this from as far back the 15th century, and there were regional variations on this dance, for added pizzazz a troupe would add flourishes, I guess to define themselves from the hundreds of other gyrating, tight-panted, handkerchief-waving people.

My personal favourite is the one that had 'cake-bearers'. They would skewer cake onto swords and hand that out to the audience.. a man, balancing a cake, on a sword, while dancing in tight pants and bells... and not decapitating anybody, deserves an honourable mention and a round of applause. And quite possibly a round of drinks.

The God with the enormous.. er... package

Priapo, the ancient Roman God of Spring basically waddled round with a huge hard on and a penis the size of himself. He is lauded as one of the most important of the fertility Gods in history- and associated with successful harvests, fertile soil and health crops. Apparently he could never fully get over his own lust, and was prone to getting into fisticuffs with animals over whose todger was the more impressive.. he's also the disowned son of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. Not sure where the Romans were going with that..

Pole Dancing 

Maypoles, you dirty sods. This is something we did as children in Sweden and I still have fond memories of skipping about with a coloured ribbon and flowers in my hair. Girls (usually) get given the end of a ribbon each ( the other end is attached to the top of the pole) and they weave it round the maypole in a dance. They everyone drinks schnapps and sings viking songs and eats herrings. At least in my family. Its roots, as with many spring traditions, are Pagan in nature and  symbolic of the uniting of the masculine and the feminine.. no prizes for guessing which bit represents the masculine.. anyway, lots of flowers, a dance for fertility and good crops and general bountifulness and like I said, in our family, and excuse to drink schnapps..

So in summary, most of these traditions hint at procreation and celebrating the bounty of nature, heralding a good crop and generally having a bit of a shindig. Not bad aims, I feel, for seasonal spirit. Talking of which, in our next post, we have some glorious spring cocktails for you..

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