Furry Day (Flora Day), Helston, Cornwall, UK
The unusual ancient name 'Furry' is probably derived from the Latin Feria (festival, holiday), and in the 18th Century was incorrectly amended to 'Flora' after the Roman goddess of that name, whose spring festival in Rome around this time was the Floralia (April 28 - May 3).
By the 19th Century, the 'furry dance' was called the Floral Dance. It is derived from a pre-Christian festivity and is seen in some other towns, such as the well-known May Day celebrations at Padstow, Cornwall, with dancing as well as the 'obby oss' (hobby horse). In its present form, prominent townsfolk dance through the town.
Singers of traditional ballads, and Morris dancers come out today. Five verses of a Robin Hood ballad are traditionally sung, featuring Robin, Little John and some of the other Merrie Men and Maid Marian (a version of the Goddess of the Woodlands). 'Hal-an-Tow' is the second dance of the morning, re-enacting St George's battle with the dragon.
The traditional belief behind the origins of Furry Day is to be found in a local legend:
"A 'Fiery Dragon' (possibly a large meteorite) is reputed to have appeared over Helston many centuries ago and dropped a large stone on what is now known as the 'Angel Yard'. More than a century ago, this great stone was split up to be used for building; a portion was built into the outside wall of the Angel Hotel in Coinagehall Street. The inhabitants of Helston, after fully expecting the town to be destroyed, celebrated their deliverance by dancing through each others' houses."
In the dim past, there were other ceremonies on Furry Day, but only the dance now survives ...
Categories: cornwall, uk, calendar-customs, goddess, deity, festival