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PARLIAMENT BANS THE RIOTOUS RIBALDRY OF THE TRADITIONAL ROBIN HOOD’S DAY CUSTOMS

In their quest to find the true origins of the Robin Hood legend, historians often link it to the early pagan festivals of “Robin Hood’s Day” (May 1st) and “Midsummer’s Day” (June 30th).

Celebrated to signify the arrival of Spring, a feature of the traditional event was the customary performance of a play in which a youth acting as Robin Hood would take the Queen of the May or “Maid Marion” into the woods where the Abbot of Unreason (otherwise known as Friar Tuck) would “bless” their coupling! The lewd and immoral content of these performances was greatly enjoyed by the common people and became the excuse for loutish behaviour and riotous feasting and drinking.

Inevitably, the authorities in England and Scotland grew increasingly concerned over the ribald tone of the celebrations and the fact that the parody of matrimony, combined with all the drink-fuelled merrymaking, gave Robin Hood’s Day a notorious reputation for producing an increased number of illegitimate children born around the end of each January! Often referred to as “the sons of Robin”, some historians claim this was how the surname Robinson may have been derived?

Even though the Scottish Parliament decreed in 1555 that “ no one should act as Robin Hood, Little John, the Abbot of Unreason or Queen of the May”, it wasn’t until the Puritanical influences of the 17th century that the English Parliament banned Robin Hood’s Day outright. The festival was re-introduced during the Restoration period but the celebration became known as May Day and the Church and Civic authorities could finally acknowledge that they had successfully erased Robin Hood’s Day from public memory!