The Obby Oss is a traditional part of May Day in Padstow. The festival starts at midnight on May Eve when townspeople gather outside the Golden Lion Inn to sing the "Night Song." By morning, the town has been dressed with greenery and flowers placed around the maypole. The excitement begins with the appearance of one of the Obby Osses. Male dancers cavort through the town dressed as one of two Obby Osses, the "Old" and the "Blue Ribbon" Obby Osses; as the name suggests, they are stylised kinds of horses. Prodded on by acolytes known as "Teasers," each wears a mask and black frame-hung cape under which they try to catch young maidens as they pass through the town.
The Blue Ribbon Obby Oss leaves the Padstow Institute at 10am to begin its tour of Padstow. Next the Old Obby Oss appears outside the Golden Lion Inn at 11am. The two Oss's dance round the streets followed by their supporters and at 12pm the Old Oss has reached Prideaux Place, where it dances outside in front of a large crowd, before it heads back to the Golden Lion Inn. The Blue Ribbon Oss visits Prideaux Place later on in the day.
Throughout the day, the two parades, led by the "MC" in his top hat and decorated stick, followed by a band of accordions and drums, then the Oss and the Teaser, with a host of people, the "Mayers" - all singing the "Morning Song" - pass along the streets of the town. Finally, late in the evening, the two Osses meet, at the maypole, before returning to their respective stables where the crowd sings of the Obby Oss death, until its resurrection the following May Eve.
The origins of the celebrations in Padstow are unknown. There is extensive documentary evidence of British community May Day celebrations in the 16th century and earlier, although the earliest mention of the Obby Oss at Padstow dates from 1803.
Padstow Padstow Museum Padstow Visitor Centre Cornish Calendar