British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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98                                   ST. VALENTINE'S EVE.                          [FEB. 13.
Church observance of the customary rights of the University, under the penalty of 100 marks in case of omission of this ceremony. It was further ordered, that the said citizens should afterwards offer up singly at the high altar one penny, of which sum forty pence were to be distributed to poor scholars, and the remainder given to the curate of St. Mary's. This offering being omitted upon the pretence that masses were abolished, the University- in Queen Elizabeth's reign sued them for the sum of 1,500 marks due for such neglect during fifteen years; when it was decreed that instead of mass there should be a sermon and a communion at St. Mary's (which at length came only to public prayers), and that the said offering should be made. The traditional story that the mayor was obliged to attend with a halter round his neck, which was afterwards, to lessen the disgrace, changed into a silken string, has no real foundation.—Ibid., p. 296.
Feb. 13.]            ST. VALENTINE'S EVE.
Misson, in his Travels in England (translated by Ozell, p. 330), describes the amusing practices of his time connected with this day. He tells us that on the eve of the 14th February, St. Valentine's day, the young folks in England and Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate a little festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors get to­gether, and each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men's billets, and the men the maids'; so that each of the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his Valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man which she calls hers. By this means each has two Valentines; but the man sticks faster to the Valentine that is fallen to him, than the Valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the Valen­tines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, and this
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