So we happened to be staying in Whitstable during their big summer celebration: the Oyster Festival. Apparently, this event is becoming much more well-known among the English, and people now flock here by the thousands to partake in the festivities during the week-long festival. The big stuff happens on the first Saturday and Sunday. Things like the “Bringing in of the Oyster Catch”. This is done by two guys in outfits from the 1800s, and a yoke to carry the oysters from the oyster traps. NB: It must happen at low-tide, so today it didn’t happen until 5:30 in the afternoon. Immediately following this historic ceremony is the parade through town. The historic significance of this has to do with blessing the oyster catch, bringing it through town with the clergy, and ceremonially handing an oyster to all the merchants and restaurateurs in town to assure a prosperous season (or something like that). Behind the oysters and clergy are the “bands”, the fancy-dress school kids and locals, jesters, giants, people with dogs, and various charities collecting change. Utterly charming, and excellently short.
We spent the day exploring the various (and MANY) food and drink stands in the harbour area, discovering an awesome new play area for the kids near the Whitstable Castle (post on that later), and after a nap and a fabulous dinner of whole roasted chicken & veg, we stepped out our door, walked half a block, and watched the parade. We had local fish and chips for lunch, found some delicious local plums, hard cider, and a lavender shortbread cookie, and will investigate the culinary offerings further tomorrow. We’re not fresh oyster fans, so no oysters for us, most likely. Here are some photos of the day:
These guys are called “Morris Dancers”, and this is an old tradition in England. They play music and do very peculiar dances with sticks and swords, and they have bells on their shoes and feathers in their hats. Some paint their faces black — have no idea why.