Beginning in the 14th century, the first Monday after the 12th day
(Epiphany) was “Plough Monday”. The day before, farmers had their
ploughs blessed, then on Plough Monday the decorated plough was taken
door to door with dancing and music. A man would dress as an old woman
called “the Bessy”. Another would dress as a fool with a donkey’s tail.
They would take up a collection. Stingy homeowners would find their
yards ploughed up if they did not give money. In Cornwall there was a
cross-dressing dance called “guise dancing”. In the Fenlands, a custom
called the Straw Bear was central to the celebration. A man was dressed
head to toe in straw and led house to house by his keeper. The Straw
Bear is seen on Shrove Tuesday in parts of Germany, Poland and Austria.