8 a.m.: Hal-an-Tow Pageant
10 a.m.: Children's Dance
12 noon: Midday Dance
5 p.m.: Evening Dance
That's a whole lot of dancing, in one day!
Today the whole town of Helston, England, turns out to welcome spring or summer, dancing in and out of houses and stores, through streets and yards and gardens. People travel from all over the world to see the
Over 1,000 kids from 7 to 18 participate in the Children's Dance. They dress up in white, the boys wearing ties in their school colors, and the girls wearing matching flowers—blue cornflowers, forget-me-nots, daisies, and poppies. The boys wear Lilies of the Valley as boutonnieres.
For the Midday Dance, men wear top hats and tails, and women dress in their best gowns. Both men and women wear Lilies of the Valley. Apparently a lot of these flowers grow near Helston!
Nobody seems to know what “Hal-an-Tow” means. I assumed it was a reference to “heel and toe,” which are very important in dance moves, but the scholarly opinions I read said that it might mean “hoist the roof,” or that”halan” means the first of the month, whereas “tow” means garland. At any rate, the Hal-an-Tow Pageant is a mystery play, a good-vs.-evil battle that includes characters such as Friar Tuck, Robin Hood, St. George, and St. Michael.
Speaking the meaning of names, there is a story of how Helston got its name: St. Michael was fighting the devil, and the devil threw a huge rock at him. That huge Stone from Hell crashed to Earth in England, where Helston is today. The boulder didn't hurt anybody—least of all St. Michael—and so the town celebrates each year. Also, the name “Furry Dance” comes from the Cornish word “fer,” which means feast or festival.
One more note about names is that there is another name for this holiday, which is The Flora.
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