Last Updated on December 31, 2020 by Neil Mackengie
When faced with the obviously powerful social force of many pagan customs, the early Christian church thought it wiser to adapt them to suitable Christian rituals than to destroy them. Many of our beliefs and rituals that still exist today are more than 2,000 years old. Some of the ancient rituals designed to increase fertility and fend off evil persist today in traditional customs, though in altered forms. customs celebrate the memory of past heroes or historical events. Still, others derive from what were once necessities.
Boundary customs, for example, defined and protected communal boundaries in the days when maps were not available to the majority of people.
Morris dances, a relic of pre-Christian fertility rites, are much the same as they were, but today they are danced for fun. Original legends concerning folk heroes were elaborated in the absence of written records. The Celtic imagination has produced many folk heroes, including King Arthur—Robin Hood is the only major English figure in our folklore!
Many of our customs and traditions are connected with national festivals, such as Christmas, Shrovetide, Easter and May Day. These customs, of course, are obmrved all over the country, though some of them have local variations.
Many customs that flourished for hundreds of years to within living memory have gradually disappeared as a result of the shifting population and the effects of the social upheavals of two World Wars. The surviving customs and traditions are direct, living links with our history.
How Old Is English Culture?
Continuous human habitation in England dates to around 13,000 years ago.