May 1: May Day & Robin Hood

RobinHoodIt’s May Day! We already discussed the origins of some May Day traditions yesterday, but today we’ll look at Robin Hood’s role in May Day festivities.

The Robin Hood stories go back in one form or another to at least the late 14th century. The basic story has remained the same over the last 600 odd years: Robin Hood (or sometimes Robert Hood) was a bandit who lived in the forest with  his band of outlaws. There’s still debate about whether or not Robin Hood ever really existed. Some historians say that the stories might have been based on a historic outlaw (or outlaws) while others think he was a purely fictional creation.

Now, what does Sherwood Forest’s most famous resident have to do with May Day? Well, at some point in the early 15th century, May Day celebrants began dressing as Robin and his Merry Men. This became a pretty popular custom in English society, and even reached the court of King Henry VIII in the first half of the 1500s. Robin was often depicted as the May King who oversaw the games and other festivities, and the adventures of Robin Hood and his gang were depicted in plays.

It’s from these May Day Robin Hood plays that we get two of the key characters from the Robin Hood mythos. Maid Marian made her debut in one of these plays as a successful attempt to add an element of courtly love to the stories. Additionally, as many of these plays were put on by local churches as part of spring parish ales (festivals at which funds were raised for parish churches, and not-so-coincidentally special ales were brewed for the occasion, with the profits going to the church), a man of the cloth was added to Robin’s band of noble rogues; and thus Friar Tuck became part of the Robin Hood story.

So, let’s raise a glass this May Day to Robin Hood and his comrades with a Friar Tuck. This is a creamy cocktail that uses the chocolatey taste of creme de cacao and the hazelnut liqueur Frangelico, the only liquor whose bottle is shaped like a monk.

Friar Tuck

  • 1 ounce Dark Creme de Cacao
  • 1 ounce Frangelico
  • 2 ounces cream

Shake all ingredients together with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: Can you spare 20 cents?


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