Dunster - Culture

Culture

On the evening of 1 May each year the Minehead Hobby Horse visits Dunster and is received at the Castle. A local newspaper printed in May 1863 says "The origin professes to be in commemoration of the wreck of a vessel at Minehead in remote times, or the advent of a sort of phantom ship which entered the harbour without Captain or crew. Once the custom was encouraged, but now is much neglected, and perhaps soon will fall into desuetude." Another conjecture about its origin is that the hobby horse was the ancient King of the May. The Hobby Horse tradition begins with the waking of the inhabitants of Minehead by the beating of a loud drum. The hobby horse dances its way about the town and on to Dunster Castle. The Sailors' horse with drummers and a squeeze box or accordion playing traditional tunes. From Dunster it returns to Minehead, collecting donations on the way and searching out money in the pubs; originally the custom was to sneak into houses, supposedly leaving good luck behind it.

A more recent tradition (started in 1987) is Dunster by Candlelight which takes place every year on the first Friday and Saturday in December when this remarkably preserved medieval village turns its back on the present and lights its streets with candles.

To mark the beginning of the festival on Friday at 5 pm, there is the Lantern Lighting Procession that starts on the Steep and continues through the village until all the lanterns in the streets have been lit. The procession of children and their families is accompanied by colourful stilt walkers in costumes who put up the lanterns.

The old English Christmas tradition of burning the Ashen faggot takes place at the Luttrell Arms hotel every Christmas Eve.

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