Page images
PDF
EPUB

Nicholas, the patron of sailors, whose aid is voice his wishes for a merry Christmas anda invoked in storms and tempests a supposi- happy New Year. Mr. Hone asserts, that, in tion which receives countenance from the Scotland, where no church feasts have been great devotion still felt by the Gothic nations kept, since the days of John Knox, the towards St. Nicholas. To this Saint many custom of carolling is unknown; but in this churches on the sea-shore are dedicated, and he is not entirely accurate. The Carralles, mary a prayer to St. Nicholas is still offered it is true, were prohibited by Act of Parliaby the seamen passing by. To these churches, ment, as well as the Gysars (a term applied in many countries, the sailors resort, who to those who disguised themselves about this have suffered shipwreck, to return thanks for period), but, until the present day in Perththeir preservation, and to hang up votive shire, the last night of the year is called tablets, representing the danger they have Carol-ewyn, because young people go from door escaped, in gratitude to the Saint for the pro- to door singing carols, in return for which sertection he vouchsafed them, and in fulfilment vice, they receive small cakes baked for the of the vows they made in the height of the occasion. storm. This custom, which is more espe. In Wales, the custom is still retained to a cially in use in the Catholic world, is pro- greater extent than in England; and, at a bably taken immediately from the Romans, former period, the Welsh had carols adaptwho had it, amongst a number of superstic ed to most of the ecclesiastical festivals, and tions, from the Greeks : for we are told, that the four seasons of the year, but they are Bion, the philosopher, was shown several of now limited to that of Christmas. On the these votive pictures hung up in a temple of European continent, the custom is almost Neptune near the seaside. Horace refers to universal. the custom :

“ Me tabula sacer
Votiva paries indicat uvida

CHAPTER VI.
Suspendisse potenti
Vestimenta maris Deo."-Carm. 1. 6.

CHRISTBAS.
“ While I, now safe on shore,

The ceremonies which take place in some Will consecrate the pictured storm,

countries, on the Vigil of the Nativity, in And all my grateful vows perform

other words on Christmas Eve (December To Nepiune's saving power."— Francis.

24th), and which were formerly general, are, St. Nicholas was also the patron of the as Dr. Forster has remarked, of the most Parish Clerks of London, a set of worthies pleasing character, and serve to amuse in the at one time of much higher importance than dreary season of Mid-winter. The houses they are at present, from uniting with their and churches bedecked with evergreens, and proper avocations, the performance of Mys. their beautiful berries—the merry carols sung teries.* They were incorporated into a guild, about the villages--the waits, or night music, or fellowship, by King Henry III., about and the cheerful bells which commence their 1240; and, for some reason unknown to us, peal at midnight, are naturally calculated to acknowledged the patronage of St. Nicholas. elevate joyously the imagination-an effect

About St. Thomas's Day, (December not a little enhanced by the numerous early 21st), the musical festivities of Christmas recollections of childhood, with which Christtime usually begin in most Christian coup. mas and its festivities are, in the minds of tries—especially

that sort of nocturnal street most, connected. music, comm mmonly called waits, or wakes, The vulgar have a great many

ridiculous which continue in many parts of England till notions with regard to Christmas Eve; and, Christmas. The pious songs of this period, on this night, observe a number of superusually termed Christmas Carols, are of very stitious ceremonies. It is extensively behigh antiquity. Bishop Taylor remarks, lieved, “ frae Maidenkirk to Johnny Groat's," that the Gloria in excelsis, sung by the that if we were to go into a cow-house at angels to the shepherds, at our Saviour's na. twelve o'clock at night, all the cattle would tivity, was the earliest. They have become, be found kneeling. Many also firmly bewithin the last century, much less common lieve that bees sing in their hives on Christin England; but formerly, on Christmas mas Eve, to welcome the approaching day. Day, they took the place of psalms in all the On this evening, women will not venture churches, especially at afternoon service, the to leave any flax or yarn on their wheels, apwhole congregation joining; and, at the end, prehending that the evil one would assuredly it was usual for the clerk to declare in a loud reel it for them before morning. Women, in

a single state, assign another reason for this Clerkenwell, history informs us, is so called, custom-their rocks would otherwise follow from the spring there situated, round which the Parish Clerks of London, iu olden time, commonly + Christmas Eve was by the Anglo-Saxons deperformed sacred plays, or mysteries. This custom nominated Myd-royntres maesse-daeg-Christmas caused the spring to be denominated Clerk's Well, itself being called Mid-winter, and Mid-ngntres which became subsequently converted into Clerkmaesse-daeg, as they gave the oame of Midsummer to erwell, now a populous parish in London.ro St. John's Day.

them to church on their marriage day. If

· The Bore's Heade in hande bring 1, any fax be left on the rock, they salt* it, in

With garlandes gay and rosemary, order to preserve it from Satanic power, and

I pray you all synge merely,

Qui estis in convivio. if yarn be accidentally left on a reel, it must not be taken off in the usual way, but be cut

“ The Bore's Head, I understande,

Is the chefe servyce in this lande: off. The same caution is exercised on Good

Loke wherever it be fande Friday, but a reason is given for this, dif

Servite cum Cantico. ferent from both of those that have already

** Be gladde, Lordes, both more and lasse, been mentioned :-on this day, it is said, a

For this hath ordayned our stewarde rope could not be found to bind our Saviour Tochere you all this Christmasse to the Cross, and the yarn was taken off a The Bore's Head with in ustarde. woman's wheel for this purpose.

Capul apri defero Of all the periods of the Calendar, none

Reddens laudes Domino." can compare, as regards the variety of mis. cellaneous customs, rites, and antiquities, with In some parts of Scotland, he who first. Christmas or Yule--the glorious time of opens the door on Yule day, expects to commemoration to the Christian world for prosper more than any other member of the the birth of a Saviour-originally, however, family during the future year, because, as the Gothic Pagan feast of Yule or Jul, cele- the vulgar express it," he lets in Yule.” brated in honour of the sun at the winter The door being opened, it is customary with solstice. t

some to place a table or chair in the door This festival, amongst northern nations, way, covering it with a clean cloth ; and, acwas the great season of sacrifice: amongst cording to their own language, to “set on it the Danes, even human victims seem to have bread and cheese to Yule.” Early in the been offered to their spurious Deities. The morning, as soon as any one of the family Goths used to sacrifice a Boar, for this gets out of bed, a new besom is set behind animal (like the horse amongst the Persians) the outer door-the design being " to let in was, according to their mythology, sacred to Yule,”_superstitions which are clearly of the sun. To this day. it is customary among heathen origin-Yule being not only personi. the peasants of the north of Europe, at the fied but treated as a Deity, and receiving an time of Christmas, to make bread in the offering. It is also common to have a table form of a boar pig. This they place upon a covered in the house from morning until table with bacon and other dishes, and, as a evening, with bread and drink upon it, that good omen, expose it as long as the feast every one who calls may take a portion, and continues. For to leave it uncovered is it is deemed especially ominous, if any one reckoned a bad presage, and totally incon- comes into a house and leaves it without gruous with the manners of their ancestors participation. Whatever number of persons this bread is called Julagalt. The use that may call on this day, all must partake of the is made in Scotland of the Maiden or last good cheer. A similar superstition prevails handful of corn that has been cut down in on this subject in the north of England ; harvest, has an analogy to this custom. It is but on New Year's day-it is that of the divided amongst the horses or cows on Christ- first foot—the name applied to the person mas morning, and sometimes on that of the who first enters a house in the New Year ; New Year,“ to make them thrive all the this is regarded by the superstitious and year round." Anciently, the boar's head credulous as influencing the fate of the soused, with a lemon in its mouth, was the family, especially of the fair portion of it, first dish brought on tableon Christmas Day, for the remainder of the year. “To exclude in England, and was carried up with great all suspected or unlucky persons, it is cusstate and solemnity. For this indispensable tomary for one of the damsels to engage beceremony there was a Carol, which is given forehand some favoured youth, who, elated by Wynkyn de Worde as it was sung in his with so signal a mark of female distinction, time, and as, according to Warton, with gladly comes early in the morning, and some alterations, it is still sung in Queen's never empty handed.”—(Brockett, p. 72). College, Oxford.

The following ridiculous rite, similar to “ A carol bryn gyng in the Bord's Head,

one we have referred to, under the first of Caput apri defero

January, also holds in Scotland. Any serReddens laudes Domino.

vant who is supposed to have a due regard to

the interests of the family, and is not at the • A particular sanctity has, by many nations, same time emancipated from the yoke of been believed to be lodged in salt, hence the express superstition, is careful to go early to the sion Seios ads, divine salt, by Homer; and reporades, well, on Christmas morning, to draw water, holy salt, by others.

su G. jul. Dan. jule, juledag. Isl. jol. A. S. pull corn out of the stack, and also to bring geola, &c.

kale from the kitchen garden. This is mearit The Greenlanders, to the present day, keep a Sun. feast about the 22d of December, to rejoice at the

to insure prosperity to the family. return of the sun and the expected renewal of the

On this day too, as well as on New Year's hunting season.-Crantz's Hist. of G:eenland, i. 176. Day, Handsei Monday (the first Monday of

the New Year, when it is customary, cspecic of the substantial entertainments of bis ancially in the north of England, to make chil. cestors, when, amongst other things, dren and servants a present as a Handsel), and Rood Day, superstitious people in Scot “ They served up salinon, venison and wild boars land, will not allow a coal to be carried out

By hundreds, and by dozens and by scores; of their own houses to that of a neighbour, Muttons and fatted beeves and bacon swine';

Hogsheads of hovey, kilderkins of mustard, lest it should be employed for the purposes Herons and bitterns, peacock, swan and bustard, of witchcraft; and the ancient Romans had Teal, millard, pigeons, widgeons and in fine

Plum puddings, pancakes, apple pies, and custard, a similar superstition.

And therewithal they drank good Gascon wine, The custom of saluting the apple trees at With mead and ale, and cyder of our own, Christmas, with a view to their produce an For porter, puncu and negus were not known." other year, yet exists in the west of England. In some places, the parishioners walk in pro. The Gifts -now generally conferred at the cession, visiting the principal orchards in the New Year, seem originally to have belonged parish. In each orchard one tree is selected to Christmas. In London, and in many as the representative of the rest ; this is other parts of England and of Europe, the saluted with a certain form of words, having custom of giving Christmas Boxes or Prein them the air of incantation. They then sents, although on the decline, is still a either sprinkle the tree with cyder, or dash a serious tax on large families and establishbowl of cyder against it, to ensure its bearing ments. In some places, it is now confined plentifully the ensuing year.

almost wholly to children. In London, One of the most remarkable of the events Parish Boys and Children at School still at Christmas, is its feasting. “ The plum carry about their samples of writing, and ask puddings, minced pies, and a thousand made for their Christmas Box; and the Bellman, dishes of exquisite sorts, such as people in Watchmen, Waits, Bell-ringers, Postmen, common have but once a year, used to be, &c. all over the country, repeat their annual and still are, in some places, brought on the calls on the liberality of their patrons. Of jovial board of hospitality. The Christmas the antiquity of such gifts, we have already Jinner usually took place after mass and spoken, at the commencement of this Review; before vespers; and afterwards in the even we shall therefore merely quote on this subject ing the wassail bowl.* Christmas Carols and a few of the remarks of Dr. Jamieson. merry songs, with various pastimes, jokes, “ The Romans, at this season, were wont Christmas games, and drolleries, made up to send presents of sweetmeats, such as dried the evening's entertainment, which was figs, honey, &c., to which they gave th heightened by the merry ringing of the bells, name of Strene. This was meant as a good and the mixture of music played both in the omen ; and by this substantial emblem, they streets and the houses."-(Forster, p. 732). also expressed their wishes, that their friends

We have already remarked that Yule was might enjoy the sweets of the year on which celebrated as a feast by the ancient Goths. they entered: Rosin. Antiq. p. 29. 250. It also customary, especially in The custom which prevails in Scotland of Sweden, for different families to meet to. presenting what the vulgar call a sweetie. gether in one village, and to bring meat and skon, or a loaf enriched with raisins, curdrink with them, for the celebration of the rants, and spiceries, has an evident analogy feast; the same custom was observed when to this. In some of the northern counties there was a general concourse to the place of Scotland, the vulgar would reckon it a bad. where one of their temples stood ; and this omen to enter a neighbour's house on New was probably the origin of the custom, still Year's day empty handed. It is common to maintained among us, of relations and friends carry some trifling present; as a bit of feasting at each other's houses at this time. bread, a little meal, or a piece of money. The festivities of Christmas have, however, Those gifts were also called by the Romans passed their zenith ; year after year witness- Saturnalitia. (Etymological Dictionary, eth their decadency, and the being of the Art. Yule). present day can form but an imperfect idea The Saturnalia amongst the Romans, at • Our custom of drinking healths, and the wassail (feasts also in honour of Saturn, and for

length, lasted seven days; the Sigillaria Introduction of the British Monarch Vortigern to merly celebrated after the Saturnalia, at Rowena--the beautiful blue-eyea daughter, or ac- which little statues of silver were offered to cording to other wriiers, niece of the Saxon Hen. the God), being included. During this seagist. She k neeled down, and, presenting to the king a cup of spiced wine, said, “Lord King, waes heil,

son of festivity and dissipation, all public health to you: to which Vortigern, instructed by business was suspended : the senate and his interpreter, replied, drinc heil, I drink your health, and then, as Robert of Gloucester says,

courts of justice were shut up: and all

schools had a vacation-circumstances strik“ Kuste hire and sitte hire adoune and glad dronk ingly resembling our Christmas holidays.

hire heil, And that was tho' in this land the verst was-hail," Master and servant sate at one table. Every

Was hail afterwards, not unnaturally, because the thing serious was laid aside, and people of name of the drinking cups of the Anglo-Saxons. all ranks gave themselves up to jollity (which

was

word, indeed, as well as the French joli, burning all the following day, or longer. A Wachter considers to come from jol, yule.) portion of the old clog of the preceding year,

Candles of a particular kind are in so:ne is sometimes saved to light up the new block places made for this season : for the candle at the next Christmas, and to preserve the that is lighted on Christmas Day, must be so family from harm, in the meanwhile: during large as to burn from the time of its being the time, too, that this log lasts, the servants lighted till the day be done, otherwise it in farm houses are entitled, by custom, to ale would be a bad omen to the family for the at their meals. subsequent year.

There is no reason to Of the various sports, games, and pas. doubt that this custom has been transmitted times, of this season of hilarity, such as the from the times of heathenism. In the Ro Lord or Abbot of Misrule, or Abbot of Un. man Saturnalia, lights were used in the wor ressounHot Cochles-Hunt the Slippership of their Deity, and hence originated Guisers, or Gysars-He can do little that the custom of making presents of this kind. can't do this, &c.-- it might be entertaining The poor were wont to present the rich with to give some etymology, but our already wax tapers, and Yule candles are still, in the overstrained limits will not admit of this. north of Scotland, given as presents by mer It has ever been a great period for gaming chants to their stated customers. By many in most countries even the ancient Romans, who rigidly observe the superstitions of this by whom games of chance were prohibited, season, the Yule candle is allowed to burn provided an exception for the month of De. out of itself, by others it is extinguished, and cember. the remnant kept for luck.

For some unexplained cause, St. Stephen's There are other miscellaneous supersti- Day (December 26), was a great period with tions, in relation to this period, of which we our ancestors for bleeding their horses--a shall relate but two or three. In the morn- practice followed by people of all ranks, and ing, one individual rises before the rest of the recommended by Tusser in his Husbandry. family, and prepares food for them, which The custom is thus referred to by Barnaby must be eaten in bed. This frequently con- Googe. sists of cakes baked with eggs, called Care cakes. A Bannock, or cake, is baked for all " Then followeth St. Stephen's day, whereon doth in the house, and if any one of these should

every man break in the toasting, the person for whom it His Horses jaunt and course abrade, as swiftly as he is baked will not, it is supposed, see another Until they doe extreemely sweate, and then they let Christmas : a part of this custom is evidently for this being done upon this day, they say doth do of Catholic origin- being the remnant of that them good, of baking cakes in honour of the delivery of And keepes them from all maladies and sicknesse the Virgin Mary.

through the yeare, Women seem, in some places, to have a pe.

As if that Stephen any time tooke charge of Horses

here." culiar aversion to spinning on this day-a su. perstition which savours strongly of pagan. According to Mr. Dance, this is a very an. ism. Ovid affirms that Bacchus punished cient practice, and was introduced into BriAlcithoe and her sisters for presuming to tain by the Danes. Mr. Nicholls has also spin during his festival. There is a singular quoted money paid “for letting oure horses passage in Jhone Hamilton's Facile Traic- blede on Christmasse weke.” tise, quoted by Jamieson, which, whilst it af. The Holy Innocents, or Childermass Day fords a proof of the traditionary antipathy to (December 28), commemorates the slaughter spinning on Yule Day, also shows how jea- of the Jewish children by Herod, and it is lous the Scotch Reformers were against the recorded by Macrobius (Saturnal. cap. iv.), observance of all festival days. After de.. that the savage order was so promptly execlaring the opposition of the Caluinian sectcuted, that one of the sons of the tyrant, then to all haly-dayes except Sonday, he says at nurse, fell a sacrifice with the other chil. “ The ministers of Scotland

in contempt dren.* of the vther halie dayes obseruit be England “ It hath,” saith the learned Gregorie, --cause thair wysis and seruants spin in op- “been a custom, and yet is elsewhere, to pin sicht of the people upon Yeul day; and whip up the children upon Innocents' Day their affectionat auditeurs constraines thair morning, that the memorie of this murther tennants to yok thair pleuchs on Yeul day in might stick the closer; and, in a moderate contempt of Christ's Natiuitie, whilk our proportion, to act over the cruelty again in Lord hes not left vnpunisit: for thair oxin kind.” a custom referred to by Hospinianran wod and brak thair nekis, and leamit sum -“ hujus lanienæ truculentissimæ ut pueri pleugh men, as is notoriously knawin in sin- Christianorum recordentur et simul discant drie partes of Scotland.”

odium, persecutionem, crucem, exilium, The Christmas Log, or Yule or Yull Clog, is another superstition of the period : this is

Macrobius relates, as one of the jokes of Augus. a large block, or log of wood, laid on the fire tus, that when he heard of this circumstance, he

exclaimed, “ Melius est Herodis poni uni esse quam on Christmas Eve, and, if possible, kept filium.' Vol. I.

2 M

egestatemque statim cum nato Christo inci- became more licentious, running about die piere, virgis cædi solent in aurora hujus Diei country, and frightening the people in their adhuc in lectulis jacentes à parentibus suis." houses, so that the legislature was obliged to This was formerly a day of unlucky omen, put a final stop to the Fête de Pous in 1668. and an apprehension is still entertained by The resemblance of the above cry, to our Hogthe superstitious, that no undertaking can menay, Trololay, Give us your white bread and prosper which is begun on that day of the none of your grey; and the name Guisards, week on which Childermass last fell. given to our Bacchanals, are remarkable cir.

Lastly-New Year's Eve or as it is, cumstances; and our former connexions with termed by the vulgar in Scotland, and in the France, render it not improbable that these north of England, Hogmanay, or Hogme. festivities were taken from thence, and this nay. * This term is also ransferred to the seems to be confirmed by our name of Daft entertainment given to a visitor on this day, Days, which is nearly a translation of Féles or to a gift conferred on those who apply for de Fous. It deserves also to be noticed, it, according to ancient custom.

that the Bishop of Augres says, that the cry, “ The cotter weanies, glad an' gay

Au gui menez, Rollet Follet, was derived

from the ancient Druids, who went out to Wi pocks out oure their shouther, Sing at the doors for Hogmanay."

cut the Gui or mistletoe, shooting and holla.

ing all the way, and on bringing it from the Dr. Jamieson has given us an interesting woods, the cry of old was, Au Gui l'an neuf, extract regarding this ceremony, from a fu- le Roi vient. Now, although we must not gitive piece in the Caledonian Mercury for suppose that the Druids spoke French, we 1792.

may easily allow that cry to have been “ The cry of Hogmanay Trololay, is of changed with the language, whilst the cus. usage immemorial in this country. It is

tom was continued. If the word Gui should well known that the ancient Druids went into be Celtic or Scandinavian, it would add force the woods with great solemnity on the last to the above conjecture. Perhaps, too, night of the year, where they cut the misle the word Rollet is á corruption of the ancient toe of the oak with a golden bill, and brought Roman invocation of their hero Rollo.". it into the towns, and country houses of the (Etymological Dictionary, Art. Hogmanay.) great, next morning, when it was distributed

In confirmation of this, it may be remark. among the people, who wore it as an amulet ed, that, in many parts of France, it is custo preserve them from all harms, and parti- tomary for young people, on the last day of cularly from the danger of battle. When December, to go about the towns and 'vilChristianity was introduced among the bar. lages, singing and begging money, as a kind barous Celiæ and Gauls, it is probable that of New Year's gift, and crying out Au Guy! the clergy, when they could not completely L'an neuf! To the misletoe !_the Newabolish the Pagan rites, would endeavour to Year is at hand; and, lastly, in England, it give them a Christian turn. We have abun- is still a common custom amongst the vul. dant instances of this in the ceremonies of the

gar, to hang up a branch of misletoe on Romish Church. Accordingly this seems to Chrismas Day, under which the young men have been done in the present instance, for salute their sweethearts. This is evidently a about the middle of the 16th century, many relic of Druidism, as well as the custom alcomplaints were made to the Gallic Synods, ready referred to, of adorning the churches of great excesses which were committed on with it; and both may be viewed as a tradi. the last night of the year, and on the first of tionary vestige of its consecration, in the January, during the Féte de Fous, by.com- worship of the ancient Britons. panies of both sexes, dressed in fantastic ha

The above catalogue has extended to so bits, who ran about with their Christmas Boxes, called Tire Lire, begging for the unexpected a length,

as to leave us but little

space for comment. One circumstance must Lady in the Straw, both money and wassels. have struck every one, in its perusal—the These beggars were called Bachelettes, Gui- intimate connexion between the customs of sards; and their chief Rollet Follet. They nations remote from each other, and indi. came into the churches, during the services cative of their common origin. In tracing of the vigils, and disturbed the devotions by nations to their particular sources, the chief their cries of Au gui menex, Rollet Follet, reliance has generally been placed upon etyAu gui menez, tiri liri, mainte du blanc et point du bis. Thiers, Hist. des Fêtes et des The word Gui seems to us to be of Celtic

origin. Jeux. At last, in 1598, at the representa- The Misleloe was a sacred plant with the Druids,

and hence, we have no doubt, was considered the tion of the Bishop of Augres, a stop was put plant par excellence. In all the dialects of the Cel. to their coming into the churches : but they tic, the word Gui, in some form or other, signifies

trees. In the Celtic, Guez signifies trees--Guezecq • In Northumberland, the month of December is and Guezennecq-a place abounding in trees. Ju the called Hogmana, which Lambe derives from the Armoric, or Bas Breton-Guezen is a tree-guesGreek cysa mom-the holy moon, but this is trees-Guezennic--shrubs-whilst in the Welsh doubtful. Oihers maintain it to be merely a cor. Guid is a tree, and Guidhele bushes, brambles, &c. raption from the French " homme est net ---man is from which the misletoe was termed Gui, as parson borg-in allusion to the Nativity!

was derived from personathe person.

« PreviousContinue »