It has become a tradition and do the British ever really question tradition? Of course we don’t. Do we question traditions that give us the liberty to have booze and do crazy drunken things that we later regret when the hangover lasts for days? Definitely not!
We hear that a friend is about to get married and even before we get around to deciding what we should gift them on their big day, we are already thinking of ways to wreak havoc on their last night of freedom.
But for those of you wondering how the tradition of a stag do or hen do came into existence, we’re about to tell you here how it all started…
Definitely Not What it Means
We obviously cannot take the literal meanings of Stag and Hen here, because it certainly did not begin with male deer’s boozing around a bon fire or hens gossiping over a glass of wine.
Unlike Americans, hardly anybody in the UK calls it a bachelor party. The word ‘bachelor’ has its origin in the old French language which probably explains to a certain extent why we may have decided to call it a stag instead.
Fundamentally, ‘stag’ could simply be a term for male. Similarly, in medieval England, a hen not only referred to a female chicken, but any female bird. It eventually became a nickname for a woman. The same can be assumed for stags which no longer refer to a male deer, but any male animal in general.
The concept of holding a feast and raising a toast to a man who is about to get married can be traced back to ancient Greece. Back in those days, when a man was about to get married in Sparta, his military comrades held a celebration for the man on the night before the wedding. The purpose of this celebration was to celebrate his youth and to honour his commitment towards the marriage.
Even though it is now usually celebrated over a span of two days, making it more popular as a stag weekend rather than a stag night, it was traditionally a celebration which lasted for just one night before the wedding. For this reason, stag do’s and hen do’s are also popularly known as the last night of freedom.
The celebration has become a much bigger event than what it used to be in the earlier days. It has also become a part of most cultures around the world. There is however one difference. The groom-to-be may have looked forward to the celebration back in those days, but now there’s a lot of embarrassment waiting for him.
The term stag is deeply rooted in the English tradition and this is the term that is generally used for pre-wedding parties in the UK, Canada and Ireland. Australians prefer to go with the term buck, but this word also originates from England.
Coming to the emblem of stag parties, you may have noticed that it usually has horns. It makes a lot of sense to include horns of a red deer as it is the leader of the pack and is also the symbol of virility, strength and youth.
The Alternate Theory
Why horns came to be included in the emblems of stag parties has another interesting theory. In the old Celtic and pagan religion, there was a god named Cernunnos. He is described as a large hairy beast that also had horns.
It is believed that he took part in wild animal hunts and those who worshipped him usually did so to celebrate fertility, the underworld, life, animals and wealth. As a popular god amongst the ancient Brits, it comes as no surprise that he has been included in marriage rituals as well.
This idea seems to be more in line with the choices we make for representing stag celebrations. With his mischievous image and portrayal, Cernunnos definitely deserves more credit than he gets for being the pioneer of stag parties or at least for the way it is represented.
If you’re planning a stag-do or a hen-do, be sure to include some fun activities so that you do not disappoint Cernunnos. You can celebrate with Avalanche Adventurewhere you can have an adventure-filled stag weekend without any limits on noise and fun.