The Holidays Celebrated In Colonial America

Royal Oak Day

{ The 29th of May }

  Royal Oak Day was a celebration of the restoration to the throne of Great Britain of the Stuart king, Charles II.

  During the English Civil War, after Charles I was beheaded, the young Charles II went into hiding, and it was said that he and some followers hid themselves in the branches of an oak tree. The celebration that grew out of that tale was established by Charles II upon his restoration to the throne. It was initially called Apple Oak Day, but later changed to Royal Oak Day.

  It was noted by early writers that the celebration of Royal Oak Day took place not only on the day that Charles II was restored to the throne of England, but that it also was his birth day.

  Young men, for decades after, would dress in the style of the Seventeenth Century, and parade through village streets asking for contributions from all of the houses they passed. The procession was led by one young man dressed all in black, with his face and hands smeared with grease mixed with soot. This leader was named, for the event, Master Oliver (as a stab at Oliver Cromwell). Master Oliver would act ludicrously as they proceeded, and to keep him from getting out of hand, a rope would be tied about his waist and held by one of the other young men. Some of the young men bringing up the rear of the procession carried oak branches, and at the very rear would come four young men bearing a child seated on oak boughs.

  Children would run alongside the procession, taunting them and throwing pebbles and clods of dirt at Master Oliver. And he, in turn, would run and try to catch one or other of the children. Any child caught by Master Oliver would have his face smeared with the grease and soot.

  The procession would end with a feast paid for by the contributions that the young men had collected along the way.