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5 Unusual British Traditions

Are you heading over to the UK from the States for a British road trip? Here at Easirent, we think that you should be sufficiently prepared for the strange and quirky customs and traditions that you’re more than likely to encounter on arrival. It’s not just a stereotype that the English are a little bit wacky and eccentric – take a read through some of these village pastimes that are still alive in England today, and you can decide for yourself.

1. Dancing around the Maypole

This quirky little English tradition may look confusing to outsiders, but in fact, its a custom that is steeped in tradition. This carefully choreographed, ceremonial folk dance is a celebration of May Day, and heralds the arrival of spring. Each year, the prettiest girl in the village is chosen to be the May Queen, and the current tradition is far less bloodthirsty than in years gone by. In old traditions, the May Queen was sacrificed at the May Pole to welcome in the season.

2. Cheese Rolling

Yes, this is as weird as it sounds. If you’re heading to the Cotswolds in your Easirent hire car, then you’re definitely going to want to experience this one. Attracting thousands of hopeful participants each year, Gloucestershire’s famous cheese rolling tradition sees competitors racing down a hill, in pursuit of an extremely fast moving wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. Reaching speeds of up to 112kph, the cheese chasing can be a dangerous game, with a whole host of injuries happening on each run.

3. Wife Carrying

Dating back to the Viking invasion of 793AD, wife carrying is an annual even which takes place in Dorking, Surrey. With sinister roots, having evolved out of the Nordic’s rampage in which the monastery was destroyed and local women were carried off against their will – today’s tradition only involves willing female participants and is a fun event for couples. The winners of the race, win the prize of £100, a barrel of pilgrim ale, and the chance to compete in the world championships in Finland. The losers receive a ceremonial tin of dog food and a Pot Noodle…

4. Morris Dancing

Similar to the tradition of dancing around the May Pole, you wouldn’t be blamed for raising an eyebrow at this traditional English folk dance. Often groups of men dressed in white trousers and tops with red braces, the dance involves skipping with sticks, handkerchiefs and sometimes even swords. Popular in the Cotswolds and the Welsh border towns, you must make sure that you experience it at some point on your road trip.

5. Lewes Fireworks

The British hold their annual Bonfire Night celebration on 5 November in remembrance of Guy Fawkes, who plotted to blow up the houses of parliament in the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. If you’re heading to the UK to visit a firework display, then the best one to attend is definitely the Lewes firework display in East Sussex. Sleepy, English village by day, Lewes really sparks into life on Bonfire Night when 30 rival fireworks societies march through the streets of Lewes burning spectacular effigies of famous people.