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Whitstable Oyster Festival

Submitted by on July 21, 2011 – 12:33 amNo Comment

The town of Whitstable, Kent, England, has been associated with oysters for hundreds of years, and the roots of its annual Oyster Festival go back much further than even locals might think. In Norman times (the century or so after 1066), Whitstable was already an established fishing port. Fishermen and dredgers customarily held an annual ceremony of thanksgiving for their survival and harvest during the a slack period when the season for oysters was closed.

As a ’Holy Day’ the festival would include a formal church ceremony, but then the townspeople would spend the rest of the day feasting, dancing, playing games and holding contests. With the feast day of St James of Compostella (the patron saint of oysters) falling conveniently on July 25, this date eventually became the accepted time to hold the festival. The fest was reintroduced in the 1980s, when the local oyster industry revived after having been almost wiped out in the 1920s by a combination of disease and overfishing.

This year’s Whitstable Oyster Festival begins Saturday, July 23, and runs through July 29, 2011.

The entire festival is still structured around the traditional local customs of the oyster fishing industry but the event now includes family and arts entertainment, and food and drink alongside local heritage and history.

(Photo by Neil Gould)

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