British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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166                                      EASTER DAY.                       [MARCH 22.
of this natural prodigy, as well as of the charitable disposition of the two ladies. Mr. Hasted, however, ascertained that the cakes had only been printed in this manner within the preceding fifty years, and concluded more rationally that the figures were meant to represent two widows, " as the general objects of a charitable benefaction."
If Mr. Hasted's account of the Biddenden cakes be the true one, the story of the conjoined twins—though not in­ferring a thing impossible or unexampled—must be set down as one of those cases, of which we find so many in the legends of the common people, where a tale is invented to account for certain appearances, after the real meaning of the appearance was lost.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 427 ; see Britton and Bray ley, Beauties of England and Wales, 1803, vol. viii. p. 208; Old English Customs and Charities, 1842, p. 60.
According to Lysons' Environs of London (1795, vol. iii. p. 603) there was an ancient custom at Twickenham of dividing two great cakes in the Church upon Easter Day, among the young people; but it being looked upon as a superstitious relic, it was ordered by Parliament, 1645, that the parishioners should forbear this custom, and, instead thereof, buy loaves of bread for the poor of the parish with the money that should have bought the cakes. It appears that the sum of £1 per annum is still charged upon the vicarage for the purpose of buying penny loaves for poor children on the Thursday before Easter. Within the memory of man they were thrown from the church-steeple to be scrambled for; a custom which prevailed also at Paddington.
In this county it is customary to eat baked custards at Easter, and cheesecakes at Whitsuntide.—N. & Q. 3rd S* voL i. p. 248.
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