Posted by Laura
Don’t be surprised if those in the know have neglected to tell you that today, May 29, is in fact Pinch-Bum Day. It’s unlikely to be pre-printed in your diary.
Oak Apple Day, to use its proper term, is steeped in tradition. Far from being something sordid, or indeed another spurious ‘national’ ****** day (fill in the blanks according to what product you’re trying to flog), it was once a public holiday.
According to Samuel Pepys, in 1660 "Parliament had ordered the 29 of May, the King’s birthday, to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day". The event symbolised Charles II hiding in a tree after the Battle of Worcester, which enabled his eventual accession to the throne.
The holiday remained for around 200 years, being marked by the wearing of oak apples and sprigs (oak apples are mutations of the tree caused by wasp larvae). It became known in some parts of the country as Pinch-Bum Day because those not wearing an oak sprig (a sign of loyalty to the restored King) were liable to be set upon under threat of having their bottoms pinched.
Nowadays, even a jocular threat of assault for not being a monarchist seems ludicrous. Yet in small pockets of England people still celebrate the tradition of Oak Apple Day. The villagers of Great Wishford in Wiltshire today have an ancient right to collect firewood in nearby Grovely Wood. Chelsea’s Royal Hospital in London, founded by Charles II, holds a ceremony usually attended by a member of the Royal Family. Castleton in Derbyshire also marks Oak Apple Day’s passing – with a designated king and queen leading a procession on horseback.
A quick search of the net discovers possibly the farthest-afield celebration of Oak Apple Day – from The Bankgok St George’s Society, who held an Apple-themed buffet and celebrations in 2005.
Do you remember Oak Apple Day celebrations from your youth – or know of any today? Let us know.
Above: The Prince of Wales visiting the Old Pensioners at The Royal Hospital Chelsea on Oak Apple Day in 1919.