London is a capital city that has such a long history so it hangs on to some archaic traditions that may not make a lot of sense to the unknowing observer. Here is a list of the most unusual traditions and events in London.
Peter Pan Cup
Many people love to spend Christmas morning going to church to open the presents left under the tree by Father Christmas. Meanwhile, many others take to freezing cold water in Hyde Park for the 100-yard swimming race Peter Pan Cup. Inaugurated in 1864, the unusual race acquired its name in 1903 when the writer for children J. M. Barrie presented the winner’s cup, a role he performed until 1932.
Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival
The pearly tradition of London is positively peculiar. Every year, in September, pearly kings and queens descend on Guildhall for the Harvest Festival, involving Morris and marching bands, maypole dancing, and a pearly parade.
The festival has its origins with 19th-century market traders (costermongers) and a street cleaner and rat catcher by the name of Henry Croft became the first Pearly King during the Victorian era. He may have got the idea from the flashy style of the kings and queens, who were elected to represent the collective interests of the market traders.
Inspired by the pizzazz and community orientation of the coster kings, Henry smothered his suit in mother-of-pearl shiny buttons and collected money for charity. The coster kings and queens took part in his charitable cause as pearly kings and queens and every London borough quickly had its own pearly royalty. And a working-class tradition was born.
Bankside Twelfth Night
In London, a very unusual tradition takes place every January, as a man shrouded in a suit emerges from the Thames in a rowing boat accompanied by a merry posse. They wish good health to the people congregated by the Globe Theatre, Bankside of Shakespeare.