Origins of Stag Parties – Where does the term Come From?
This is a very good question and one we get asked alot about when having a drink or two with our visiting stag groups. In Britain,Canada and Ireland the event is referred to as a stag party, stag night, stag do or stag weekend. In Australia they are bucks parties and bachelor parties in America. It is a party held for the single man just before he gets married. It is a celebration in the his honour, although it may not seem like it at the time as humiliation seems to be the order of the day. It is also sometimes known as his last night of freedom although the duration of the event over recent years seems to have changed from the traditional drink the night before the wedding to weekends away participating in things such as adventurous activities and generally getting involved in things his future wife may not approve of.
It is a last chance as a bachelor to gather together a group of people who have known the him since childhood, through school, in University and work colleagues, sports clubs and obviously last but not least his family. It can often be the last opportunity to get this grouping of people together before the Groom and his peers take on more responsible adult marital roles – mortgages, children and monthly bills. This is not just you average night for drinking in the pub or bar. It has a tradition and mystique associated with it involving tricks and lots of drinking usually at the groom’s expense. It often has a risqué element such as strippers or being stripped and tied to lampposts in the dead of night, body hair being shaved off, dressing up in fancy dress with the groom in female attire the list is endless.
Although there is not much evidence around to explain the origins of this famous tradition what evidence there is suggests that it was originally called the bachelor dinner, or stag party. Like many other wedding traditions, it seems to extend back into ancient history. Evidence suggests it first came about in the fifth century, in Sparta, where military comrades would feast and toast one another on the eve of a friend’s wedding. There he would say goodbye to the carefree days of bachelorhood and swear continued allegiance to his comrades.
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The reference to stag and bucks also has strong male conartations. The leader of the pack or herd, virile, male vigour and ardour, males in their prime identified with strength and vitality. There's another stag connection with male rites of passage - again possibly involving drinking alcohol to excess and soliciting the favours of ladies who are prepared happily to remove all their clothing for the appropriate sum. The Horned God referred to in both Celtic and early English mythology was a symbol of all things male - the Celts called him Cernunnos. Legend from these times is often confused, but it seems clear that in pre-Christian times, Brits definitely worshipped a large hairy god who sported antlers, ran around with the Einheriar, or wild hunt.
As to the word bachelor, again its history is murky. The earliest meaning of bachelor in English is 'a young knight who followed the banner of another'. This reference is first found in the late thirteenth century. The use of the word in the context of 'an unmarried man', is found in Chaucer in the late fourteenth century.
The English word, seems to come from Old French. The source of the Old French word, many believe, probably comes from a Latin word baccalaris 'farmhand' but who really knows well your guess is as good as the next man!
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