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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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May Games and Whitsun Ales

May Games and Whitsun Ales

Chapter:
(p.244) 24 May Games and Whitsun Ales
Source:
The Stations of the Sun
Author(s):

Ronald Hutton

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.003.0024

Commoners, unlike royalty and the aristocracy, lacked large buildings in which communal festivities could comfortably be held in bad weather. During the darker and colder seasons, it was the alehouse or the private dwelling that formed the focus of merriment, and neither could accommodate crowds. The warm weather in England, and the ability to feast, dance, and play games freely, would last until September, but even for those who could spare the time from agricultural work later in the summer, this part of May offered a joyful inauguration of festive gatherings. Such gatherings were held with special frequency in the two days after the religious feast of Whit Sunday, set aside helpfully for them by the Church and known as the Whitsun holidays. They occurred, however, at any time from May Day onward, and in the early modern period were known variously as May games, summer plays, summer games, ales, or feasts.

Keywords:   commoners, alehouse, England, gatherings, Whit Sunday, Church, Whitsun, May, games, ales

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