Plough Monday, falling on the Monday after Twelfth Day or epiphany (6th January), was the traditional start of the farming new year after the twelve days of Christmas revelries were over.
Ploughing the fields after the fallow period of winter, ready for the spring planting was the main focus of the coming month or two. The care taken and the weather conditions at the time would have a dramatic influence on the quality of the harvest later in the year. As anyone who cultivates plants knows, the seedbed is the most important variable. 'God speed the plough' is commonly found in ballads and on engravings.
The celebration dates to at least the 15th century, and the day was one of feasting, revelry and pageantry, and a plough, decorated with ribbons, was pulled around the village by all the farm lads with pipes and other instruments playing.
Money was usually collected door to door, as on St Thomas' Day and wassailing days, with the threat that non-compliance would result in their garden getting ploughed up!
In some areas, participants would dress as women. In Warwickshire the plough boys and farm girls would race to the nearest furrow and back; the losers lost their share of plum pudding.
Plough Monday was all but forgotten by the beginning of the 19th century, but in the late 20th century it began to receive more interest as old customs were revived. It is celebrated in several places today.