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Airdate: Jan 12, 2004
Scientist: Sue Dupre

Plough Monday - Tradition

Plough Monday - Tradition
Imagine a holiday like Halloween, with a bit of Mardi Gras thrown in, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what Plough Monday was like - in 18th century rural England.

Transcript:
Plough Monday - Tradition

Music; Ambience: Plough Monday folk tunes

Picture a holiday like Halloween with a little bit of Mardi Gradi thrown in, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what Plough Monday was like. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In rural England, the Plough Monday celebration was a folk tradition celebrated for centuries every January. Well this week, in Princeton, New Jersey, a folk group called Handsome Molly is keeping the spirits of the Plough Monday celebration alive. Sue Dupre is a member of Handsome Molly.

Dupre: Plow Monday was a historical observance whose first heyday was in the nineteenth century. It's the first Monday after Twelfth Night. On that date in East Anglia in England, men in small villages would dress up, half of them as women. They'd dress up in outrageous ways, and they'd disguise themselves. They'd smear their faces with charcoal and they'd go from house to house. They'd take a plow along with them and at each house they'd stop at, they would do a dance.

Once the ploughmen finished offering their songs and crude dances, they would demand payment from the owner of the house.

Dupre: They would then expect to be served beer or food or given money when they were done. If they weren't given food or beer or money, they'd take their plow, and they'd plow up the homeowner's yard. Kind of a trick or treat postponed till just after Christmas.

We'll hear more about Plough Monday in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm Jim Metzner.