Curriculum Kernewek

Cornwall Agreed Syllabus 2011

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+ Guide to Festivals and Celebrations

Festivals and celebrations are an intrinsic part of indigenous culture and life in Cornish communities. They bring excitement, colour and activity to locations across Cornwall throughout the year. Some are celebrated across Cornwall whilst others are linked to a specific place by a custom, person, historical event or legend. Many of the festivals celebrated today have been continuously celebrated for hundreds of years and their origins can be difficult to trace.

Festivals marking a change of seasons are often linked to the celebrations held by indigenous people prior to the arrival of Christianity. In recent times, some historic festivals have been revived and re-imagined by communities, for instance Penzance has developed Golowan (the Feast of St John) to form a major arts and cultural festival. Other communities have designed entirely new festivals around people or local stories to celebrate their achievements and distinctiveness, attract visitors and bring the community together.

The main types of festival and celebration include:

+ those marking a season change - the coming of summer is marked by Obby Oss in Padstow and Flora Day in Helston, whilst the Midsummer Bonfire and ritual harvest celebrations, like Crying the Neck, are held across Cornwall.

+ Christian festivals - these are celebrated across Cornwall by Christians and often by the wider community, for instance, Harvest Festival.

+ local feast days - a celebration of the local saint. Many communities historically celebrated their saints day and some still do, for instance St Just Feast. Within Methodist and other non-conformist churches these occasions were often celebrated with a Tea Treat, a day of tea, saffron buns, dances and games. St Piran’s Day is celebrated in communities across Cornwall.

+ those related to industry - celebrations of fishing and mining tend to fall in the winter and include Tom Bawcocks, St Picrous and Chewidden Thursday.

+ those related to a person - in recent times some communities have established special days to celebrate the achievements of people who were born or lived in the community, for example Trevithick Day, Murdoch Day, Daphne du Maurier festival. In 1801, John Knill, the mayor of St Ives, established his own celebration which continues once every 5 years to this day.

+ those relating to a legend - for instance Bolster Day, St Agnes.

+ those relating to customs - for instance hurling in St Columb, St Ives and Bodmin.

+ fairs and carnivals - a range of new and old celebrations often based on a combination of historic and/or contemporary ideas.