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.                                      35
ale with cakes, by general contribution of the village, out of the very surplus of which. " they not only repaired their church, but kept their poor too; which charges," quoth Dr. Plot, "are not now, perhaps, so cheerfully borne." —Plot's Nat. Hist, of Staffordshire, 1680, p. 434.
Twelfth Night, or Holly Night, was formerly celebrated at Brough, by carrying through the town a holly-tree with torches attached to its branches. The procession set out at 8 o'clock in the evening preceded by music, and stopped at the town-bridge, and again at the cross, where it was greeted each time with shouts of applause. Many of the inhabitants carried lighted branches as flambeaux; and rockets, squibs, &c, were discharged on the joyful occasion. After the tree had been carried about, and the torches were sufficiently burnt, it was placed in the middle of the town, when it was again cheered by the surrounding crowd, and then was thrown among them. The spectators at once divided into two parties, one of which endeavoured to take the tree to one of the inns, and the other to a rival inn. The innkeeper whose party triumphed was expected to treat his partisans liberally.—Hone's Table Book, 1838, p. 26 ; Handbook for the Lakes, Murray, 18G6, p. 113,
In some parts of Pembrokeshire, the following practice is observed. A wren is secured in a small house made of wood, with door and windows, the latter glazed. Pieces of ribbon of various colours are fixed to the ridge of the roof outside. Sometimes several wrens are brought in the same cage, and oftentimes a stable-lantern, decorated as above mentioned, serves for the wren's-house. The proprietors of this establishment go round to the principal houses in their neighbourhood: where, accompanying themselves with some musical instrument, they announce their arrival by einging the * Song of the Wren,' The wren's visit is a source of much amusement to children and servants, and the
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