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The Stations of the SunA History of the Ritual Year in Britain$
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Ronald Hutton

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205708

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.001.0001

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A Merrie May

A Merrie May

Chapter:
(p.295) 28 A Merrie May
Source:
The Stations of the Sun
Author(s):

Ronald Hutton

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.003.0028

What has been far less well understood until recently is that the old May games underwent a parallel transformation. This was because, whereas nobody pretended that the Christmas tree or Christmas card were anything other than innovations, the alteration in the summer festivities was presented as a revival, a self-conscious quest for authentic tradition. Like the redevelopment of the great winter festival, it was a response to the emotional needs of its age; but the summer merry-making became far more bound up with the politics of nostalgia, which have remained a potent force in national culture until the present. Only from the 1970s onward did a combination of a new rigour in folklore studies and a new sensitivity among intellectuals to what has been termed ‘the invention of tradition’ make possible an objective consideration of what had occurred; in this development, the work of Roy Judge has been pre-eminent.

Keywords:   May, games, Christmas, summer, festivities, merry-making, folklore, tradition, Roy Judge

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