From the ridiculous to the sublime…
Benedict points out that it is, of course, the Second Lunar Trimester before the Spring Equinox entering the House of Jupiter with Capricorn rising, exactly 18 Solar Days before Easter Sunday, which, as we all know, makes it Toadhog Day.
Rush to the lawns of the Old Royal Naval College at around 11.00 this morning to join in the special Toade Hunt, where His Worship the Mayor will, in full cermonial garb, make a proclamation before the gathered assembly, then lead the public in the “lifting of the stones” ceremony, looking for the Lucky Greenwich Toad, before initiating a joyful Toad Walk through the park to the Observatory.
A little history. Incredibly, the origins of Toadhog Day have nothing to do with amphibians at all. During Duke Humphrey’s tenure, it began as ‘Olde Hogge’ Day, when older, more dangerous wild pigs were hunted down and a sneaky mid-Lentern feast provided for the people. It was, of course, much disapproved of by the Church.
The Toads came in after Humphrey’s enclosure of the park and boars were less common. ‘Slipping ye tode in ye hole’ became somewhat of a vulgar term during the reign of Good King Hal, a sly reference to his courtship of Anne Bolyen under the old oak tree in Greenwich Park. The festival got a bit out of hand in the centuries to come, gradually becoming saucier and saucier, and wasn’t cleaned up until Victorian times when prudes forced the annual undergound Saturnalia to become a family event. It is nevertheless still much enjoyed by the people of the Parish.
As ancient tradition decrees, as the Time Ball drops at exactly 1.00pm, His Worship will raise the stone of the Lucky Toad and ask him when Spring will arrive. The number of irritated croaks will tell the world how many more weeks of winter we have to endure.
The comes the fun – a veritable carnival of toadery – Guess the Weight of the Toad, How Many Toads In The Barrel and Pin The Wart On The Toad competitions, to name but a few of the wholesome entertainments on offer. Greenwich does not come any more exciting. The event’s highlight is, of course, the annual Parade Of The Toads, dressed in their finery. Benedict has kindly sent me a photo of the winners of last year’s coveted Glamorous Toad award.
“Terence wears a Daffodil vase Top Hat by Benoit and Titania also chooses, from the same designer’s spring/summer collection, a beautiful petal-motif bonnet.”