Cornwall’s most bizarre festivals you won’t believe exist

You probably know Cornwall for its epic coastline and chilled-out lifestyle. 

However, thanks to its rich history and enthralling culture, the region hosts some of the most unusual and quirky festivals in Europe. 

Here’s a list of some of the most bizarre festivals in Cornwall!

Obby Oss Day in Padstow

Padstow Obby Oss

When: May 1st

The streets of Padstow come alive with the centuries-old Obby Oss Day, where locals don horse costumes called “osses” and dance through the town. 

The origins are shrouded in mystery, but it’s believed to be a fertility rite. 

Participants parade the “osses” while singing traditional songs, and the whole town is decorated with greenery and flowers.

Flora Day in Helston

When: May 8th

This ancient festival celebrates the arrival of spring. The town’s streets are filled with dancers dressed in white, and the “Furry Dance” is performed multiple times throughout the day. This is one of the oldest continuously practiced British traditions, and the name “furry” is thought to derive from the Cornish word “feast”. 

The Hal-an-Tow, a lively procession featuring historical and mythical characters, adds to the day’s eccentricity!

The World Bellyboard Championships

When: Early September

Participants from around the globe compete using vintage wooden bellyboards, riding the waves in old-fashioned swimwear. 

The event celebrates the nostalgic charm of traditional bellyboarding and how it has evolved into surfing today!

The festival has traditionally taken place on Chapel Porth Beach in St Agnes, but this year, you’ll find it at Great Western in Newquay.

The Cornish Pasty Championships at Eden Project

Hand holding a Cornish Pasty at the Beach in St. Ives in Cornwall.

When: No longer running

What: Celebrating Cornwall’s most famous culinary export, the Cornish Pasty Championships attracted bakers from all over to compete in traditional and creative pasty-making. 

Categories include the best traditional Cornish pasty and the most unusual pasty, leading to some surprising and inventive entries – Mexican bakers from the town of Pachuca even won an award once! 

Read about the Cornish region of Mexico, where you can get bean-filled pasties, here

The championships stopped in 2023, with the organisers feeling like they ran their course. Nowadays, the Cornish pasty association instead runs Cornish Pasty Week, which focuses on teaching children in Cornwall about nutrition and why a Cornish pasty is so important to the area’s heritage. 

St Ives Feast Day and Hurling the Silver Ball 

When: February

This annual festival celebrates the consecration of the parish church of St Eia in St Ives and dates back over 1,000 years. 

The day begins with the Mayor’s civic procession and a church service, followed by the Hurling of the Silver Ball, a traditional game where participants compete to return the ball to the Mayor on the steps of St Ives Guildhall. 

Nowadays, the town’s children are the participants, and they try to have possession of the ball at midday by the steps. Whoever does, is the winner! 

Mazey Day in Penzance

When: Late June

Part of the larger Golowan Festival which celebrates midsummer, Mazey Day sees Penzance transformed with vibrant parades, enormous puppets and street performances. 

The day is a blend of pagan tradition and modern creativity, with giant sculptures made by local artists parading through the streets, accompanied by musicians and dancers.

Montol Festival in Penzance

When: December 21st

Celebrating the winter solstice, this festival features masked parades, fire-lit processions, and traditional Cornish music. 

Participants wear costumes inspired by historical characters, creating a mystical atmosphere. The “Guisers,” masked revellers, roam the streets, adding an eerie yet festive feel to the event.

The Ordinalia Trilogy in St Just

When: September 2021

The Ordinalia Trilogy, a series of Cornish medieval mystery plays, was revived in St Just in September 2021 – they haven’t yet taken place again, but there’s hope that they will be in the future. 

These plays, “Origo Mundi” (The Origin of the World), “Passio Christi” (The Passion of Christ), and “Resurrexio Domini” (The Resurrection of Our Lord), are performed in the Cornish language and recount biblical stories with a blend of local folklore, with some parts being performed in Cornish. 

The revival in St Just brought together the community in a multi-day event that celebrated Cornwall’s literary heritage, complete with elaborate costumes and immersive performances.

Tom Bawcock’s Eve Festival

When: December 23rd

Two days before Christmas, head to west Cornwall to the picturesque village of Moushole, where a centuries-old tradition for a local celebrity is commemorated. 

In the 16th century, Tom Bawcock is said to have braved stormy seas to save the village from starvation; they hadn’t been able to go out to fish in days prior because the conditions were so rough. 

He brought back pilchards, and they were baked into a pie with their heads poking out, as if they’re gazing at the stars. This is thought to give more oil to the pie, and it’s still served this way today! 

On 23rd December, locals and visitors eat star gazy pie and enjoy Mousehole’s Christmas decorations, which are among the best in Cornwall. 

Would you visit Cornwall for any of these quirky festivals?

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