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Published on July 9th, 2019 | by Sam Rose

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Observe the UK’s Curious Customs with Curious Customs Special Stamps!

Time to celebrate some of the UK’s most unusual annual customs with Royal Mail’s issue of Curious Customs Special Stamps!

Highly engaging and colourful illustrations adorn July’s special stamps issue, as we reach the midway point of Royal Mail’s Special Stamps Calendar for 2019 with the Curious Customs Special Stamps release.

This latest issue of eight special stamps celebrates the pride of often seemingly unusual customs that are carried out throughout the UK, featuring an eclectic mix of well-known and not so well-known events that take place in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The UK has an incredibly rich heritage of some traditional and unusual customs and whilst some may seem eccentric to the outside observer, those who take part demonstrate great pride in upholding centuries-old traditions.

Additionally, these annual events help to establish some new customs across the country too.

Curious Customs Special Stamps

2nd Class – Same Sky Burning the Clocks

Curious Customs Burning the Clocks Stamp

Location:

Brighton

Timing/Date:

21st December

Background:

Same Sky Burning the Clocks is a highly popular community midwinter folk festival where participants carry paper clock lanterns that are made of willow wands and figures.

The procession culminates on the beach, where the lanterns are set alight and a fireworks display takes place.

As this was established in 1994, it is an example of a successful modern tradition.

2nd Class – Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss

Curious Customs 'Obby 'Oss Stamp

Location:

Padstow, Cornwall

Timing/Date:

1st May

Background:

The Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss event involves two strange black beasts called Osses (which some remark as barely resembling horses despite the similar name) swirling and swaying through the streets of Padstow.

The ‘Ossses are accompanied by drummers, musicians and dancers before they ‘die’ once the clock strikes midnight.

It is an example of a fairly old tradition, with documents recording that the first year that this custom took place was in 1803.

1st Class – World Gurning Championships

Curious Customs World Gurning Championship Stamp

Location:

Egremont, Cumbria

Timing/Date:

Third Saturday in September

Background:

Every year, The World Gurning Championship is held at Egremont Crab Fair.

The competition involves both men and women competing to produce the most grotesque looking facial expressions whilst they are framed in a horse collar.

The Egremont Crab Fair was first established in 1267, making it one of the oldest fairs in the world and also hosts other unusual competitions including Cumberland wrestling, Wheelbarrow Racing and climbing the greasy pole.

1st Class – Up Helly Aa

Curious Customs Up Helly Aa Stamp

Location:

Lerwick, Shetland

Timing/Date:

Last Tuesday in January

Background:

Up Helly Aa is a famous fire festival which is now more than 100 years old.

As part of the festival, people in dress parade through the town whilst carrying blazing torches including the Guizer Squad who wear full Viking attire.

A full size wooden longship (which has been crafted over the preceding year) is pulled through the streets and is later ceremonially burned as part of the traditional festivities.

£1.55 – Cheese Rolling

Curious Customs Cheese Rolling Stamp

Location:

Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire

Timing/Date:

Spring Bank Holiday Monday (in 2019, it fell on the 27th May)

Background:

The annual Cheese Rolling competition sees hundreds of contestants chase and attempt to catch a double Gloucester cheese which is rolling rapidly down a hill.

Weighing between 3 to 4 kilograms, the cheese is given a head start of a second before the competitors and can often reach speeds of nearly 70 miles per hour during its journey down to the bottom of the hill.

The first person to cross the finish line located at the very bottom of Cooper’s Hill is awarded the cheese as their prize, with the Cheese Rolling competition being held in Gloucestershire since the early 19th century.

£1.55 – Halloween

Halloween Stamp

Location:

Derry/Londonderry

Timing/Date:

Runs for 5-8 days in the run up to and just after 31st October

Background:

The tradition of dressing up and calling at houses for gifts during Halloween has been common now for many centuries.

But it is said that the world’s biggest Halloween party is in Derry/Londonderry and now welcomes nearly 80,000 people each year.

Activities include parades, fancy dress, ghost walks and fireworks all to mark the lengthy event which has been named as the world’s best Halloween celebration by USA Today.

£1.60 – Horn Dance

Horn Dancing Stamp

Location:

Abbots Bromley, Staffs

Timing/Date:

Early September (due to take place on Monday 9th of September in 2019)

Background:

This has become a famous and ancient custom which is unique within Europe.

The Horn Dance involves six men carrying huge Reindeer antlers along with characters dressed as Maid Marian, a Fool, Hobby Horse and a Bowman celebrating ancient hunting rites.

They travel through and around the parish whilst performing traditional dances at set places throughout.

All the costumes used and the dance itself have been preserved for hundreds of years, with the earlier reference of the Horn Dance dating back to the 1630s.

£1.60 – Bog Snorkeling

Bog Snorkelling Stamp

Location:

Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys

Timing/Date:

August Bank Holiday

Background:

Bog Snorkeling is an event that was first held in 1976.

It involves contestants going back and forth through a water-filled trench within a peat bog, with the fastest person to swim through it being declared the winner.

The event attracts competitors from all over the world and come equipped with snorkels, which are essential for the event as all participants must remain submerged and can only use flippers in order to propel themselves across the boggy surface.

Explore Unique Traditions with the Curious Customs Special Stamps Presentation Pack

Each of these eight colourful stamp designs based on some of the UK’s weird and wonderful Curious Customs are featured in the Curious Customs Presentation Pack.

The bright and wacky Presentation Pack also includes an image of a specially commissioned illustrative map of the UK, originally cut from wood and painted by Jonny Hannah.

This detailed map plots each of the customs that feature in the Curious Customs Special Stamps issue along with a brief description of the customs which has been written by folklorist, Steve Roud.

Additionally, this neat package also contains a special poem titled ‘Customs and Exercise’, which has been specially written by the poet Matt Harvey to celebrate and commemorate each of the unique customs featured on the stamps.

Also provided as part of the Curious Customs Special Stamps issue is the Curious Customs Stamp Card Pack – a set of eight post cards which feature larger reproductions of the designs featured in this fascinating release.

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