Helston Flora Day

 

Tomorrow sees the return of the traditional Helston Flora Day. An ancient festival where the streets of Helston are adorned with flora and lined with people eager to see the annual procession through the town.

 

Believed to be pre-Christian and connected to pagan spring festivals  flora day celebrates the end of winter and marks the arrival of spring and vitality; celebrated by decorating shops and houses with bluebells, gorse and laurel leaves from the surrounding countryside.

 

The merrymaking starts early with the beat of a drum at 7am  to signify the stirring of the spirit of the day and the beginning of the dancing.

 

The day is then filled with a myriad of dances and processions through streets, shops and houses to drive out the darkness of winter and welcome in the light of Spring.

 

The Hal-an-Tow pageant, a particular procession tells the story of Helston, the Spanish Armada, St.George and the fight between St.Michael and the devil through singing, acting and colourful costumes.

 

The children’s dance is one of the day’s most popular and renown with over 1000 children from different schools dancing through the streets dressed in white with flowers in their buttonholes and hair determined by what school they attend.

 

The midday dance is also well known  as it is traditionally the dance of the gentry in the town where men wear top hat and tails and the women wear their finest frocks. Performed as named at midday the dancers also wear Lily of the Valley which is Helstons symbolic flower. The men traditionally wear the flower on the left and pointing upwards whereas the women wear it on the right and pointing down.

 

The music is performed by Helston and other local town bands which accompanies the dances, pageants and processions  and is played from memory as music has never been written down. Although Cornish author Margaret Courtney wrote that the tune played was sometimes known as “John the Bone” with the rhyme to accompany it as:

 

John the Bone was walking home

When he Met Sally Dover

He kissed her once

He kissed her twice

And kissed her three times over