Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, It's Town Crier Day

Throughout the Middle Ages, the call of "Oyez, oyez, oyez!" and the ringing of the bell could be heard through the streets as the town crier made his way down the lanes informing the citizens of the latest news and proclamations. Today, the tradition lives on in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Town criers remain beloved folk and civic figures and now have their own holiday: Town Crier's Day.

The town crier tradition

Most common people couldn't read during the Middle Ages, but still, the people had to have some way of learning the news and the latest laws. Since they didn't have television, they devised a simple but genius scheme: the town crier. It was his job to walk through the streets shouting "Oyez, oyez, oyez!" ("oyez" is the ancient equivalent to "hear ye") and telling the townsfolk the news of the day, whether it was the price of flour or something serious like the death of a monarch or the start of a war.

Because illiteracy was common until the beginning of the 20th century, the town crier remained a staple in European town life, and the tradition made its way to the New World where he carried on in the same capacity. With the rise of education in America and Europe, people began to read newspapers and pamphlets more, needing the town crier less and less. By the advent of the radio, the town crier was nearly a forgotten figure, and at best, a peculiar relic from a long-gone past.

Despite the wane in use of a town crier, some towns have employed them throughout the ages, such as Mariemont, Ohio, where they are believed to have the "last town crier in the United States." Town criers have actually made somewhat of a comeback in recent years; the tradition was widely revived in the western world during the last decade of the 20th century as the town crier became a ceremonial figure, though sometimes still employed to make official announcements.

Town Crier Day

Town criers are known for their loud voices and their hand bells, as well as their traditional regalia of tricorn hats and wide-collared frock coats. Celebrations of Town Crier Day might involve honoring the town crier by imitating their loud proclamations and adopting their dress. Modern day town criers are also known for their competitions. One educational idea would be to actually find out if there's a Town Crier Day celebration near you, and see the actual criers at work.

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