Since April 1st is fast approaching, I've been doing a lot of research into the origins of April Fools Day in order to supplement the info I already have on the site. In the course of this research, I came across references to an old English holiday called Shig-Shag Day, celebrated on May 29, that has some similarities to April Fools Day. Shig-Shag Day is also called Shick-Shack Day or (more boringly) Oak Apple Day
Celebrants would place sprigs of apple oak in their hats or lapels to commemorate the restoration of the monarchy. The oak was said to symbolize the oak tree that Charles II hid in to escape his enemies. But cultural anthropoligists suggest that the custom may have been a relic of ancient pagan tree-worship festivals. And for most people, the day was simply an excuse to get drunk. An 1855 issue of the journal Notes and Queries
(Aug. 11, 1855, pg.100) offers this description of Shig-Shag Day celebrations:
After breakfast these men [celebrating Shig-Shag Day] go round to such houses for beer, &c. Should they not receive anything, the following verses should be said:
Shig-shag, penny a rag,
Bang his head in Cromwell's bag,
All up in a bundle --
but fear often prevents them. However, the lads have no fear, and use it freely to any one without an oak-apple or oak-leaf on some part of his person, and visible, -- ill-treating him for his want of loyalty. After noon the loyalty ceases; and then, if any one be charged with having shig-shag, the following verses are said:
Shig-shag's gone past,
You're the biggest fool at last;
When shig-shag comes again,
You'll be the biggest fool then.
And the one who charges the other with the oak-leaf receives the ill-treatment.
There's some controversy about the origin of the term "Shig-Shag." Some people say oak apples were known as "shig shags" or "shick shacks" in some parts of England. But the more interesting theory
is that shig-shag was a euphemism for "shit sack," which was a popular term for non-conformists and enemies of the monarchy back in the 17th century.
I don't think anyone celebrates Shig-Shag Day anymore, but I like the idea of a holiday dedicated to getting drunk and worshiping trees.