British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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162                                       EASTER DAY.                       [MARCH 22.
1843, p. 56) to a custom in the thirteenth century of seizing all ecclesiastics who walked abroad between Easter and Pentecost, because the Apostles were seized by the Jews after Christ's Passion, and making them purchase their liberty by money.
The custom of eating a " gammon at Easter" says Aubrey (which is still kept up in many parts of England), was founded on this, viz., to show their abhorrence of Judaism at that solemn commemoration of our Lord's Resurrection. Of late years the practice of decorating churches with flowers on this festival has been much revived.
A very singular custom prevailed at Lostwithiel on Easter Sunday. The freeholders of the town and manor having assembled together, either in person or by their deputies, one among them, each in his turn, gaily attired and gallantly mounted, with a sceptre in his hand, a crown on his head, and a sword borne before him, and respectfully attended by all the rest on horseback, rode through the principal street in solemn state to the church. At the churchyard stile the curate, or other minister, approached to meet him in rever­ential pomp, and then conducted him to church to hear divine service. On leaving the church he repaired, with the same pomp and retinue, to a house previously prepared for his reception. Here a feast, suited to the dignity he had assumed, awaited him and his suite, and being placed at the head of the table, he was served, kneeling, with all the rites and ceremonies that a real prince might expect. The ceremony ended with a dinner; the prince being voluntarily disrobed, and descending from his momentary exaltation to mix with common mortals. On the origin of this custom but one opinion can be reasonably entertained, though it may be difficult to trace the precise period of its commence­ment. It seems to have originated in the actual appearance of the prince, who resided at Eestormel Castle in former ages; but on the removal of royalty this mimic grandeur stepped forth as its shadowy representative, and continued for many generations as a memorial to posterity of the
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