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Ebernoe Horn Fair

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Ebernoe Horn Fair is held in the small Sussex village of Ebernoe, the location of which is about five miles north of Petworth (grid reference SU975280). The fair is held annually on Saint James's Day, 25 July. The tradition is centuries old though it appears to have been revived in 1864 after a long lapse. The celebration is held on the village common and the main attraction is a cricket match between Ebernoe and a nearby village. Towards the end of the day the highest scoring batsman is presented with a set of horns. These are taken from a sheep which has been roasted during the day. It is thought the presentation of horns is associated with the custom of dressing up with horns as a symbol of cuckoldry (a cuckold is an old English term for a man whose wife has had an adulterous affair. It relates to the cuckoo, a bird which lays its eggs in another bird's nest). Centuries ago horn fairs were boisterous events where cuckoldry and seduction would not be unknown. The practice of dressing up with horns is alluded to in the traditional Horn Fair Song. The old saying All's fair at Horn Fair probably originates from such events. In days gone by it seems that Ebernoe Fair was often beset by thunderstorms. However, the storms were taken as a good luck sign and farmers would look forward to a good harvest. The absence of a storm would suggest the crops would fail. Ebernoe Horn Fair was also the day on which gardeners were reminded to sow their spring cabbages.


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