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Morris Dancing

Whilst many of our old customs have faded away, that of Morris dancing has achieved a remarkable revival in the present century, and new groups of Morris dancers are appearing every year. The Morris, a rustic merry-making, was common in England in the 14th century, and may have been introduced by Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I.* It was a popular feature of village festivals. Opinion is divided as to its origin, but a popular belief is that it is derived from a Moorish dance.

* (Edward I - English King; reigned 1272-1307.)

The Morris Men are most likely to be seen at Whitsun and during the early summer, but many groups play a part in May Day celebrations. The dances are performed by sets of dancers and are sometimes accompanied by traditional "characters" such as the Man-Woman, Hobby Horse and the Fool. Costumes and number in a set vary considerably in different parts of the country. Basic dress is a white shirt and trousers tied at the knee, plus a variety of sashes, rosettes, ribbons, flowers, bells and handkerchiefs. Music is usually provided by a fiddler or concertina player.

Thaxted, in Essex, is a noted centre for Morris dancing, and the dancers make extensive tours of the neighbourhood at Easter and Whitsun and on Trinity Sunday. Performances are also given on Boxing Day, and there is a special dancing festival in June.

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