British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Jan. 6.]                           twelfth day.                                   29
We read, too, of our nobility keeping Twelfth Night by the diversion of blowing up pasteboard castles; letting claret flow like blood out of a stag made of paste; the castle bom­barded from a pasteboard ship, with cannon, in the midst of which the company pelted each other with egg-shells filled with rose-water; and large pies were made, filled with live frogs, which hopped and flew out upon some curious person lifting up the lid. Twelfth Night grew to be a court festival, in which gaming was a costly feature. Evelyn tells us that on Twelfth Night, 1662, according to custom, His Majesty (Charles II.) opened the revels of that night by throwing the dice himself in the privy chamber, where was a table set on purpose, and lost his 100l.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 63.
In Cumberland, and other northern parts of England, on Twelfth Night, which finishes the Christmas holidays, the rustics meet together in a large room. They begin dancing at seven o'clock, and finish at twelve, when they sit down to lobscouse and ponsondie; the former is made of beef, potatoes, and onions, fried together; and in ponsondie we recognise the wassail or waes-hael of ale, boiled with sugar and nutmeg, into which are put roasted apples; the anciently admired lambs'-wool. The feast is paid for by subscription; two women are chosen, who with two wooden bowls placed one within the other, so as to leave an opening and a space between them, go round to the female part of the society in succession, and what one puts into the uppermost bowl the attendant collectress slips into the bowl beneath it. All are expected to contribute something, but not more than a shilling, and they are best esteemed who give most. The men choose two from themselves and follow the same custom, except that as the gentlemen are not sup­posed to be so fair in their dealings as the ladies, one of the collectors is furnished with pen, ink, and paper, to set down the subscription as soon as received.—Time's Telescope, 1825, p. 13.
In many of the small towns they partake of scalded field-peas, and a hare or some other kind of game. The peas are
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