May Day and Milk-a-Punch Sunday

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Children dancing around the Maypole

The first day of May and the first Sunday in the month have traditionally been celebrated in the Channel Islands, although largely with imported customs than those specifically associated with the islands.

Children have always loved dancing around the Maypole and the practice is still continued in some Jersey schools, including the election of a May Queen.

The custom known as Jack-in-the-Green was popular in the latter part of the 19th century. It was almost certainly imported from England and involved chimney sweeps dressing up in green foliage.

The first Sunday in May was once known as Milk-a-Punch Sunday in all the islands. In Jersey young people would dress up in their best clothes, the girls in white, and head out from the town of St Helier into the countryside to milk cows, take eggs and make a milk punch. Writing in 1817 William Plees suggested that this practice continued in the early mornings through the month. In Guernsey a similar practice became somewhat rowdy and died out by the First World War, but in Alderney the tradition was maintained through providing free milk punch in the island bars on the first Sunday in May.

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