Padstow, in Cornwall UK (with a Celtic heritage), is internationally famous for its traditional May Day celebration. Held annually on May Day (1 May), which, though its actual origins are unknown, largely dates back to the Celtic Beltane, the day that celebrates the coming of Summer. There is extensive documentary evidence of British community May Day celebrations in the 16th century and earlier, although the earliest mention of the Obby 'Oss at Padstow dates from 1803. It has been speculated that such festivals have pre-Christian origins, such as in the Celtic festival of Beltane in the Celtic nations. It has also been proposed that the worship of horse deities, such as Epona, was found in ancient Celtic societies.

 

The celebration in Cornwall itself starts at midnight on 1 May with unaccompanied singing around the town. By the morning, the town is dressed with greenery, flowers and flags, with the focus being the maypole. The climax arrives when two groups of dancers progress through the town, one of each team wearing a stylized recreation of a 'horse.' The two 'osses are known as the "Old" and the "Blue Ribbon" 'osses. Accompanied by drums and accordions and led by acolytes known as "Teasers", each 'oss is adorned by a gruesome mask and black frame-hung cape under which they try to catch young maidens as they pass through the town. The Blue ribbon oss is apparently of more recent origin. Sometimes in the late afternoon, the 'osses may meet at the maypole and dance together.

 

The celebration includes the singing of two songs, a “Night Song” and a “Day Song.”

 

Night Song

 

Unite and unite and let us all unite,

For summer is acome unto day,

And whither we are going we will all unite,

In the merry morning of May.

I warn you young men everyone,

For summer is acome unto day,

To go to the green-wood and fetch your May home,

In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mr. ..... and joy you betide,

For summer is acome unto day,

And bright is your bride that lies by your side,

In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mrs. ..... and gold be your ring,

For summer is acome unto day,

And give to us a cup of ale the merrier we shall sing,

In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Miss ..... all in your gown of green,

For summer is acome unto day,

You are as fine a lady as wait upon the Queen,

In the merry morning of May.

Now fare you well, and we bid you all good cheer,

For summer is acome unto day,

We call once more unto your house before another year,

In the merry morning of May.

 

Day Song

 

Unite and unite and let us all unite,

For summer is acome unto day,

And whither we are going we will all unite,

In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mr. ..... I know you well afine,

For summer is acome unto day,

You have a shilling in your purse and I wish it were in mine,

In the merry morning of May.

All out of your beds,

For summer is acome unto day,

Your chamber shall be strewed with the white rose and the red

In the merry morning of May.

Where are the young men that here now should dance,

For summer is acome unto day,

Some they are in England some they are in France,

In the merry morning of May.

Where are the maidens that here now should sing,

For summer is acome unto day,

They are in the meadows the flowers gathering,

In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mr. ..... with your sword by your side,

For summer is acome unto day,

Your steed is in the stable awaiting for to ride,

In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Miss ..... and strew all your flowers,

For summer is acome unto day,

It is but a while ago since we have strewn ours,

In the merry morning of May.

 

O! where is St. George,

O!, where is he O,

He is out in his long boat on the salt sea O.

Up flies the kite and down tails the lark O.

Aunt Ursula Birdhood she had an old ewe

And she died in her own Park O.

 

With the merry ring, adieu the merry spring,

For summer is acome unto day,

How happy is the little bird that merrily doth sing,

In the merry morning of May.

The young men of Padstow they might if they would,

For summer is acome unto day,

They might have built a ship and gilded her with gold,

In the merry morning of May.

The young women of Padstow might if they would,

For summer is acome unto day,

They might have made a garland with the white rose and the red,

In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mr. ..... and reach me your hand,

For summer is acome unto day,

And you shall have a lively lass with a thousand pounds in hand.

In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Miss ..... all in your cloak of silk,

For summer is acome unto day,

And all your body under as white as any milk,

In the merry morning of May.

O! where is St. George,

O!, where is he O,

He is out in his long boat on the salt sea O.

Up flies the kite and down tails the lark O.

Aunt Ursula Birdhood she had an old ewe

And she died in her own Park O.

Now fare you well and bid you all good cheer,

For summer is acome unto day,

We call no more unto your house before another year,

In the merry morning of May.