The ‘Obby ‘Oss festival is a folk custom that takes place each May Day in Padstow, a coastal town in the southwest English county of Cornwall. It involves two separate processions making their way around the town, each containing an eponymous hobby horse known as the ‘Obby ‘Oss.
The festival starts at midnight on May Eve when townspeople gather outside the Golden Lion Inn to sing the “Night Song.” By morning, the town has been dressed with greenery and flowers placed around the maypole. The excitement begins with the appearance of one of the ‘Obby ‘Osses. Male dancers cavort through the town dressed as one of two ‘Obby ‘Osses, the “Old” and the “Blue Ribbon” ‘Obby ‘Osses; as the name suggests, they are stylised kinds of horses. Prodded on by acolytes known as “Teasers,” each wears a mask and black frame-hung cape under which they try to catch young maidens as they pass through the town. Throughout the day, the two parades, led by the “MC” in his top hat and decorated stick, followed by a band of accordions and drums, then the ‘Oss and the Teaser, with a host of people, the “Mayers” – all singing the “Morning Song.” – pass along the streets of the town. Finally, late in the evening, the two ‘osses meet, at the maypole, before returning to their respective stables where the crowd sings of the ‘Obby ‘Oss death, until its resurrection the following May Eve.
When: 1st May