Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kissing Friday and other British Easter Traditions

No one knows where this custom originated but until at least the 1940s, the Friday after Ash Wednesday was known in Britain as “Kissing Friday.” On this day, school boys could buss any girl they encountered without fear of retribution. In some cases, the boys strung a rope across the road and demanded a kiss as toll. If the girl refused to pay it, the boy pinched her bum.

In Leicestershire, Kissing Friday was called Nippy Hug Day and adult men joined the fun. If a woman refused to give up a kiss, the fellow “loused” or pinched her. (A curious reference to pinching off lice.) In some places, the “loused” woman was required to play temporary wife to the pincher, but it isn’t clear what that may have entailed. One has to wonder, however, if this tradition is related in any way to the custom Italian men have of pinching the bottoms of women they pass on the street.

Maundy Money
Practiced in Britain since at least the 13th century, there is some disagreement about which sovereign instituted the custom of emulating Christ washing the feet of his Disciples on Maundy Thursday. Although the tradition is generally attributed to Edward II, the first recorded occasion was in 1210 A.D. during the reign of King John. King John washed the feet of the poor in Yorkshire, then passed out food and clothing.

Gradually the feet washing custom was done away with (the last known sovereign to do it was James II) and the giving of coins equal in pence to the monarch’s age took its place. Known as Maundy Money, the coins were ordinary prior to 1820. From 1822 on, however, they have been specially minted for the occasion.

Good Friday Bun Ceremony
Hot cross buns are an important Easter tradition. Baking bread on Good Friday is a custom said to date from the biblical account of Jesus blessing a woman who gave him bread as He carried the Cross to Calvary. To hang a “Good Friday biscuit” in your home was thought to bring good luck. Buns were often given by wives to their fishermen husbands to protect them at sea.

The Widow’s Son Pub in the East End of London follows an interesting Good Friday custom.

A widow once lived in a cottage on Devons Road where the pub now stands. Her sailor son wrote that he’d be home for Easter and asked that his mother bake him some hot cross buns. He never arrived. Grief-stricken, she strung up a bun and, every Good Friday after that, added another to the collection.

When a pub was built on the site in 1848, the owner named it The Widow’s Son. Every subsequent owner has continued the tradition of adding a bun to the pile kept in a net over the bar. Today, a sailor from the Royal Navy places a specially prepared bun in the net. on Good Friday How many dried and blackened buns does it hold? Only patrons of The Widow's Son know for sure.


Vic said...

Thank you for this informative post and the lovely music. A nice interlude in my morning.

Joanna Waugh said...

Thanks for dropping by, Vic! I'm a great fan of Jane Austen's World.

Ashley Ladd said...

Good to see you post again. I didn't know any of those things.

elena maria vidal said...

Very interesting indeed. Thank you for the link, Joanna, and I have returned the favor!

Dave said...

Just to let you know that in Long Preston in Yorkshire, we were still celebrating both Petticoat Thursday and Kissing Friday in 1955