As the name implies, ‘Calendar Customs’ are customary activities which are geared to the time of year. Most of them are annual, like Guy Fawkes night, Christmas, Shrove Tuesday, but they can be more frequent, or they can be based on a different timescale – the agricultural cycle, for example.
Sussex has its fair share of calendar customs, Tipteerers, May garlanders, Apple howlers, Marble players, and so on, some of which have survived or been revived, but many more were allowed to lapse, or were suppressed in the past.
But there are other sorts of customs. ‘Occupational customs’, for example, were previously prevalent in particular trades, ranging from the mistreatment of apprentice printers, topping-out of a building, or blacksmiths’ festivities, to modern activities, such as what happens in an office when a female colleague is about to get married. And then there are ‘life-cycle customs’ which mark the key points in our lives, such as birth, marriage and death, birthdays and anniversaries, and so on.
Customs can involve the whole community, or be restricted to one family or group, and they can be very old, like morris dancing and wassailing, or very recent, such as putting out balloons to signify a party, or placing bunches of flowers near the site of a fatal accident. But they are all ‘folklore’ in the sense that they are passed on informally from person to person, are important to those in the group and expected by them, and become part of who we are.