10 Weird and Wonderful English Village Rituals

Whether you are visiting England for the first time or you are a regular vacationer, you should do more than pass through the villages. They have some rituals that may seem silly, but are often centuries old.

1. Straw Bear Festival, Whittlesea

Straw bear festival

Every January in Whittlesea is the Straw Bear Festival. Traditionally, a man dressed in straw entertained the villagers by dancing through the streets. Today, it has become a weeklong event with dancers and concerts. At the end of the week, an anxiously awaiting crowd watches as the Straw Bear is burned in celebration.

2. Worm Charming Willaston

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In the large village of Willaston, Cheshire, a heavy competition takes place annually. Players use a garden fork and music to entice worms out of the ground. The competition is 30 minutes long with strict rules. The individual with the most worms receives a gold trophy in the shape of a rampant worm.

3. Cheese Rolling, Cooper’s Hill

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At Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, the locals have a Cheese-Rolling and Wake race. Crowds of people come to watch and participate. A traditional Gloucester cheese is rolled down the steep hill while competitors race after it. The first to the finish line will win the 9 lb. roll of cheese.

4, Egremont Crab Fair

egremont crab fair

Egremont Crab Fair and Sports is in Egremont, Cumbria. It is where the magic of gurning happens. Participants compete to see who can make the most distorted face. Other activities include, but are not limited to clay pigeon shooting, horse and pony leaping, and pipe smoking. A midday Parade of the Apple Cart is the pride of the fair.

5. Jack In The Green, Hastings

Jack the green

In Hastings, Sussex, the May Day Parade is celebrated with a Jack-in-the-Green. Jack-in-the-Green is a person covered in garlands, leaves, and other foliage from head-to-toe. This coverage is usually in the shape of a pyramid. The festivities last for several days leading up to and after the first of May.

6. Ottery Tar Barrels

Ottery far barrels

Everyone is welcomed to watch as the townspeople of Ottery St Mary uphold their annual tradition of carrying flaming tar barrels through the streets. This event is preceded by a week of carnival activities and ending with a bonfire and fireworks display.

7. Wife Carrying Race, Dorking

Wife carrying race

The Annual Wife Carrying Race in Dorking, Surrey hosts hundreds of couples from all over the globe. Women are carried for 380 meters on the backs of or in the arms of their husbands. The race is an homage to the Viking warriors that raided villages and carried wenches and maidens out of the town.

8. Hurling The Silver Ball, Cornwall


Also known as Cornish Hurling, Hurling the Silver Ball is a sport unique to Cornwall. The ball is made of sterling silver and weighs approximately 20 ounces. It is thrown from one goal to the next, which are two miles apart. The crowd is allowed to touch the ball, which is supposed to bring luck and fertility.

9. Souling Or Soulcaking

Soul caking

Souling in Cheshire is a tradition that has been around for centuries. Groups of Soulcakers perform plays on All Souls Eve (November 1). This performance is intended to protect the town from evil spirits by helping the dead on their journey to Purgatory. Money and Soul Cakes are given away. Eating a cake is a way to devour the sins of the dead.

10. The Burning Of The Clocks, Brighton

Burning of the clocks

Brighton celebrates the longest day of the year with The Burning of the Clocks. At the beginning of the winter solstice, locals support the making of lanterns with a different theme every year. Included in the festival is a parade procession with the lanterns, a bonfire, fireworks display, and musical entertainment.