British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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34                                      TWELFTH DAY.                             [JAN. 6.
lays his head in the lap of some one of the wenches, and the mainsfyr fiddler asks who such a maid, or such a maid, naming all the girls one after another, shall marry, to which he answers according to his own whim, or agree­able to the intimacies he has taken notice of during the time of merriment, and whatever he says is. absolutely depended on as an oracle; and if he happen to couple two people who have an aversion to each other, tears and vexation succeed the mirth; this they call " cutting off the fiddler's head," for after this he is dead for a whole year.— Waldron's Description of the Isle of Man, 1859, p. 156.
A friend of mine, says Mr. C. W. Bingham in N. & Q. (3rd S. vol. ix. p. 33), met a girl on Old Christmas Day, in a village of North Somerset, who told him that she was going to see the Christmas thorn in blossom. He accompanied her to an orchard, where he found a tree, propagated from the celebrated Glastonbury thorn, and gathered from it several sprigs in blossom. Afterwards the girl's mother informed him that it had been formerly the custom for the youth of both sexes to assemble under the tree at mid­night on Christmas Eve, in order to hear the bursting of the buds into flower, and she added, " As they corned out, you could hear 'um haffer"
Jennings, and after him Halliwell, give this word haffer for to crackle, to patter, to make repeated loud noises.
At Paget's Bromley a curious custom went out in the seventeenth century. A man came along the village with a mock horse fastened to him, with which he danced, at the same time making a snapping noise with a bow and arrow. He was attended by half a dozen fellow-villagers, wearing mock deers5 heads, and displaying the arms of the several landlords of the town. This party danced the Hays, and other country dances, to music, amidst the sympathy and applause of the multitude. There was also a huge pot of
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