"Penny for the plough boys!"
The first Monday in January after Twelfth Night is Plough Monday. Starting out as a Medieval custom [there are written records from the 1400s], traditionally it was the day the ploughboys returned to work the land in preparation for sowing. Many communities would have shared a plough which was housed in the church and the blessing of it was carried out by the priest at a special Plough Service. This it was hoped would promote a good harvest for the coming year. Some of these services continue to be held today. To leave any plough out in the field was thought to bring bad luck in the form of wolves to your farm.
Having carried out the necessary religious observances, the plough was normally decorated and paraded around the local area by the plough boys for money. At this time any funds raised were given back to the church for the Plough Lights. These were the candles burnt to continue this cycle of good fortune throughout the whole agricultural season. As you might imagine with the coming of the Reformation these archaic practices, with their pagan overtones, were soon abolished.
Despite the banning of Plough Monday it saw a revival in later years albeit in a slightly different form. The Plough Boys or Jacks, Stots or Bullocks as they were also known, continued with the revels. Now though they disguised their faces with soot and collected money from their Plough Parade for their own pocket. Refusal to pay could land you with the threat of having your doorstep pulled up anonymously at nightfall. Money for menaces indeed😈 Thankfully these days the celebrations have taken a rather more benevolent turn and the celebrations often include Morris Dancing [particularly the Molly style] and music. One of the most well known is the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival http://www.strawbear.org.uk/ Although originally marked all over the country Plough Monday traditions are now mainly confined to East Anglia.