Months in the planning, celebrations normally start the day before when townsfolk dress up their homes or shops with flowers and foliage from the surrounding area, with a focus on bluebells (the people of Helston are exempt from the normal ban on picking bluebells for this one day). Very much a social event, it’s traditional to have a walk around in the evening to look at the gorgeous displays, chat to people and maybe have a tipple or two.
Early on Flora Day, all roads are closed in preparation for the first dance, which takes place at 7am. Ladies and gents wearing shirts and ties and summer dresses follow the town band through the streets, whatever the weather.
Soon after the Hal-an-Tow, a much more raucous affair, takes place in various spots across Helston in which the life of St Piran and the battle of St George and the Dragon are played out, very much like a traditional mummer’s play, with whistles, drums and lots of shouting of ‘Oggy oggy oggy, oi, oi, oi!’.
At 10am the children’s dance takes place, in which the children of the local schools dance through the town dressed in white and wearing lily of the valley.
At midday the formal dance takes place, where the men don top hat and tails and women their best dresses. The day ends with the Evening Dance at 5pm, starting at the Guildhall.
We won’t lie – this is a very busy, packed event, especially if it’s sunny or at the weekend (it’s always held on the 8th May, unless it’s either a Sunday or Monday then it is on the previous Saturday). The roads are closed so you will need to park on the outskirts and walk in, but it’s worth it for the incredible atmosphere and feeling like you are part of a tradition that dates back centuries.
For us here at Boutique Retreats, Flora Day holds a very special place in our hearts. In fact, the building in which we are based is integral to the day – the Midday dance actually comes through it!
Want to frolic at Flora Day? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Cornwall here.