Welcome to Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club!
This month we are celebrating August Wakes.
Wakes celebrations began as feast days in honour of the patron saint of the parish church, and gained their name from the medieval tradition of staying awake in the church all night in order to hear the dawn mass on the saint’s day. Initially these festivals were quite sombre, involving penance and fasting. Following the reformation, however, the emphasis shifted to revelry, eventually becoming rowdy enough that the celebrations were shifted away from the saint’s day.
In northern towns, wakes became a secular, industrial holiday. Each town chose its own wakes week, and the workers were given unpaid holiday whilst the mills were closed for maintenance. Although wakes could occur at any time of year, summer was most often chosen for wakes weeks, and many occurred during August. In fact, wakes became synonymous with the town’s annual holiday, which often meant a mass exodus to the seaside!
The observance of wakes weeks has become almost obsolete due to the decline of local industries and the standardisation of school holidays, but as a child growing up in the Lancashire mill town of Oldham, I still remember the annual Oldham wakes holidays.
This month’s club represents the two sides to August wakes: the original religious observance, represented by ‘Vigil’ rolags, green tea and a meditation stone, and the later summer-holiday feel, represented by ‘Coast’ rolags and some seaside treats.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer, however you chose to spend it!
In this box you should find:
- The story of August Wakes
- 20g of rolags in “Vigil” – 67% Merino, 16.5% Flax/Linen, 16.5% Tencel.
- 10g of rolags in “Coast” – 67% Merino, 33% Llama
- A handspun mini skein in “Deckchair”
- Tea in Serene Jasmine and Moroccan Mint green blends
- Stitch markers
- A meditation stone from Buttons Be Good
- A recipe for Feasten Cakes
- A stick of seaside rock.
Recipe: Feasten Cakes
A tradition from the Cornish celebration of wakes, these saffron-coloured cakes are delicious served with a little cream.
- 450g plain flour
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g unsalted butter, softened
- 20g/2 tsp dried yeast
- 50g sugar
- Large pinch of saffron, infused for ~20 mins in 150ml hot milk
- 175ml clotted cream
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 100g currants,
- Milk to glaze
- Clotted cream, to serve.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl. Rub in the butter.
- Cream the yeast with 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Strain the saffron milk and beat in the cream, then mix with the yeast. Leave in a warm place for 20 minutes until bubbles form on the surface.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the flour with the beaten eggs. Add the currants and the remaining sugar and knead well. Cover and leave in a cool place for the dough to rise slowly until double in size. Knead again briefly then knock back and shape into 8 small buns or cakes and flatten slightly. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to prove so that the dough springs back when pressed, 20-30 minutes.
- Arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the tops of the buns lightly with milk and sprinkle with a little sugar.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Take out and cool on a wire rack.
Reference: Cattern Cakes and Lace by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, Dorling Kindersley 1987