British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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[March 17.
majority of those who sought entertainment at the village inn were young men who had no families, whilst those who had children, and especially whose familes were large, made themselves as snug as possible by the turf fire in their own cabins. Where the village or hamlet could not boast of an inn, the largest cabin was sought out, and poles were extended horizontally from one end of the apartment to the other; on these poles, doors purposely unhinged, and brought from the surrounding cabins, were placed, so that a table of considerable dimensions was formed, round which all seated themselves, each one providing his own oaten bread and fish. At the conclusion of the repast they sat for the remainder of the evening over a " Patrick's pot," and finally separated quietly.—Every Day Book, vol. ii. p. 386.
The following description of St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is taken from the Time's Telescope (1827, p. 66): Every one is expected, says the writer, to wear a sprig of shamrock in honour of the saint and his country, and a few pence will supply a family with plenty of this commodity. In the morning upon the breakfast table of the " master " and " the mistress" is placed a plateful of this herb for a memento that it is Patrick's Day, and they must " drown the sham­rock," a figurative expression for what the servants them­selves do at night in glasses of punch, if the heads of the family are so kind as to send down the plate of shamrock crowned with a bottle of whisky, under which is also ex­pected to be found a trifle towards a treat. While the lower circles are, on this blessed of all Irish days, thus enjoying themselves in the evening, the higher are crowding into that room of the castle entitled St. Patrick's Hall, which is only opened two nights in the year—this, and the birth-night (the 23rd of April); it is a grand ball, to which none oan be admitted who have not been presented and attended the Viceroy's drawing-rooms; and of course every one must appear in court dress, or full uniforms, except that, in charity to the ladies, trains are for that night dispensed with on account of the dancing. A few presentations some­times take place, after which the ball commences, always with a country dance to the air of " Patrick's Day," and after this quadrilles, etc., take their turn.
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