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Top Ten Cornish Traditions

Steeped in history, Cornwall is filled with quaint fishing ports, small ode world pubs and plenty of things to do all year round. Check out our top ten list of Cornish traditions that are great for all the family to get involved with, from pasty competitions to Christmas Day dips, there's something for everyone.

1. Helson Flora Day

Flora Day has been celebrated in the Cornish market town of Helston for hundreds of years. The ancient festival is usually held on the 8th May and celebrates the end of winter, marking the arrival of spring, bringing new vitality and fertility. The town is decorated with with floral arrangements and greenery to express the spirit of renewal. Celebrations begin at seven in the morning when the big bass drum is struck ad dancing commences.

Flower displays at Helson Flora Day

2. Penzance May Horns

This ancient Cornish custom has been revived after disappearing in the early twentieth century. Taking place in Penzance, the May Horns (tin trumpets) are blown accompanied by whistles and a procession to welcome in May. The custom takes place on the first Sunday evening of May with people dressing in shades of white and green, the festival is open to everyone and is a great opportunity to have some fun and make a lot of noise.

3. St. Piran's Day

Named after the patron saint of Cornwall, St. Piran's Day is celebrated as Cornwall's national day on March 5th every year, the festival has been celebrated for hundreds of years. The day is marked out with plenty of singing, dancing and lots of drinking.

Alcoholic celebrations for St. Piran's Day

4. Stargazy pie

 Stargazy pie is a Cornish dish traditionally eaten on 23rd December to mark Tom Bowock Eve. Tom Bowcock was born in the tiny fishing port of Mousehole, the story goes that the village suffered terrible storms, cutting it off from the rest of England. Tom Bowcock bravely sailed out to sea and returned with plenty of fish. The pie features the heads of pilchards poking out of the pastry, gazing at the sky. Every year The Ship Inn located in Mousehole dishes out free pies to locals and tourists alike.

5. Feast Week

Mevagissey feast week is the longest surviving festival in Cornwall. The week-long event blends traditional and contemporary, bringing hundreds of visitors together to celebrate at the end of June. The festival features live music, competitions, parades and lots of fish dishes, culminating in a huge fireworks display. It's a wonderful event for the whole family. 

Seafood banquets at Feast Week

6. Cornish Hurling

Played only in Cornwall, Cornish hurling is a unique pass-time! Usually held in the first week of February, everyone can get stuck in, the game involves two teams trying to wrestle, throw and carry a small silver ball, known as a Hyrlian, through the streets. The winner is the person who can manage to carry the ball across the parish boundary. 

7. Cornish Cream Tea

It's a British classic through and through, an afternoon treat dating back to the 11th century. The Cornish cream tea usually consists of spreading the jam first, followed by clotted cream however, in Devon the cream is spread first. It is rumoured that even the Queen prefers a Cornish cream tea, opting for jam first.

Cornish Cream Tea

8. The World Pasty Championships 

 Celebrating the traditional Cornish pasty during Cornish pasty week, the Eden Project in Par draws in bakers from all around the world in March. This unique event sees pasty bakers enter their traditional, and sometimes even unusual pasties into a competition to win the world title.

9. Christmas Day Dip

Hundreds of people flock to local beaches on Christmas Day to partake in a seasonal dip. For decades many have braved the cold weather to walk, run or plunge into the Cornish sea. Many people turn up in fancy dress to mark the occasion, with the chilly British weather, it is not for the faint hearted.

Cornish beach in December

10. Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival

This modern festival, held in June, has made it's mission to keep Cornish history alive. Featuring classic tall hips and plenty of sea shanties, it's a great way to soak up Falmouth's sea loving heratige. Groups from across the UK and Europe come together with live performances celebrating the history.

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