Shig-Shag Day

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.


Posted on Sat Mar 22, 2008


beats Sack-O-Shit Day, where we climb trees and worship drunks.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sat Mar 22, 2008  at  10:36 PM
Interesting. Whenever I tried to pull an April Fool's joke on my Mom after April 1st, she'd always say:

April Fool's done past
You're the biggest Fool at last
Up a ladder, down a tree,
You're a bigger fool than me

maybe shig-shag's spectre is still around
Posted by OriginalSim  on  Sun Mar 23, 2008  at  05:44 PM
Well, now I know about shig-shag day, I shall of course celebrate it - I always enjoy getting drunk and worshipping trees.

And of course, shag has an slightly different meaning in the UK, and that might also be a fun way to celebrate it - though not with trees.
Posted by Nona  on  Tue Mar 25, 2008  at  07:08 AM
"... I like the idea of a holiday dedicated to getting drunk and worshiping trees."

This is new to you? So, I take it you've never been to a Christmas party?
Posted by Big Gary  on  Tue Mar 25, 2008  at  12:45 PM
I know it's in January and not April, but what about the Festival of Fools? Sorry if that's a dumb question, I was just wondering if they might be linked somehow. (Besides the word "fool.")
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Tue Mar 25, 2008  at  02:41 PM
Something ran in our newspaper about April Fools today. They said the Pope changed New Years from April 1st to Jan 1st. But some people didn't hear and still celebrated on April 1st, making them "fools." Is that true?
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Thu Mar 27, 2008  at  01:35 PM
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