Whitsun at Bampton
There is a lot going on During the weekend of Whitsun in Bampton. Some of the things are:
• The Great Shirt Race
• Morris Dancing
• May Garlands
• Evening Sessions
In recent times Whitsun has been somewhat been shouldered aside by the secular Spring Bank Holiday. In the past, though, Whitsun was a time when Church festivals played an important part in Village life. However the festival could have come from a Pagan Spring festival that was used to promote growth in the coming years crops, and was adopted by the church in later years.
The Shirt Race
There is more to Whitsun in Bampton than just the dancing. There is also the Shirt Race, that is held on the Saturday, and this is good fun to watch. There are different age groups, and many different types of costumes. The race is a circuit around the village, and there are two groups. There is a Junior race first, which is run over the same course as the Adult race. Each team has two people, and a pram. The competitors stop at each Pub along the course, and at each stop there is a drink, (Orange juice for the Juniors, Beer for the Adults). The runner grabs a drink, downs it (They have to finish all of the beer before continuing), then swaps with the rider. They then run to the next stop, where the process is repeated. Prizes are awarded for first and second place and for the best fancy dress in each age group.
Bampton has three world-renowned Morris dance teams. On the Monday of the Spring Bank Holiday,the Bampton Traditional Morris team start the dancing at 8:30am at the junction of Bushey Row and New Road, and continue through the day at various locations in the Village – including many of the grand old houses and outside the pubs. The programme for the day’s events can be obtained from The horseshoe pub and The Town Hall. In the evening, visiting teams join in the dancing, and ‘make merry’. And do try the ‘fertility cake’, which is carried on a sword around the streets with the dancers.(Beware if you are a lady, as rumour has it that if you eat it you may return next year with a baby in tow!) Also watch out for the Fool, or he may get you with a swinging bladder!
The making of May Garlands by the children of the Village is a custom stretching back centuries. The showing and judging of the garlands takes place on the Monday of the Spring Bank Holiday, at 11am in the Market Square. To make May Garlands is technically easy, but time consuming. All you need are two hoops which you cover with wild flowers. These wild flowers can be yellow flags, moon daisies, cow parsley – in fact anything which is in flower at the time (Please do not pick protected species). Tie them into small bunches and attach them to the hoops with string. Fix the two hoops together so they form a ‘ball’ shape. On top, fix a bunch of flowers - years ago the top posy had to be made up of red or pink peonies. Sit your favourite doll in the centre find a long stick or broom handle to hook it through and two people to carry it and you have yourself a Traditional May Garland.