British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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190                          HOCK, OR HOKE DAY.                 [APRIL 7.
soon after the Reformation, on account of the scenes of riot which it occasioned.
It will be seen that this Coventry play was founded on the statement which had found a place in some of our chro­nicles as far back as the fourteenth century, that these games of hock-tide were intended to commemorate the massacre of the Danes on St. Brice's Day, 1002 ; while others, alleging the fact that St. Brice's Day is the 13th of November, suppose it to commemorate the rejoicings which followed the death of Hardicanute, and the accession of Edward the Confessor, when the country was delivered from Danish tyranny. Others, however, and probably with more reason, think that these are both erroneous explanations; and this opinion is strongly supported by the fact that Hock Tuesday is not a fixed day, but a movable festival, and dependent on the great Anglo-Saxon pagan festival of Easter, like the similar ceremony of heaving, still practised on the borders of Wales on Easter Monday and Tuesday. Such old pagan ceremonies were preserved among the Anglo-Saxons long after they became Christians, but their real meaning was gradually forgotten, and stories and legends, like this of the Danes, afterwards invented to explain them. It may also be regarded as a confirmation of the belief that this festival is the representation of some feast connected with the pagan superstitions of our Saxon forefathers, that the money which was collected was given to the church, and was usually applied to the reparation ot the church buildings. We can hardly understand why a collection of money should be thus made in commemoration of the overthrow of the Danish influence, but we can easily imagine how, when the festival was continued by the Saxons as Christians, what had been an offering to some one of the pagan gods might be turned into an offering to the church. The entries on this subject in the old churchwardens' registers of many of our parishes not only show how generally the custom prevailed, but to what an extent the middle classes of society took part in it.
In Reading these entries go back to a rather remote date, and mention collections by men as well as women, while they seem to show that there the women "hocked," as the phrase was, on the Monday, and the men on the Tuesday.
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