British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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278                                  whitsunday.                           [May 10.
May io]                   WHITSUNDAY.
In tbe Catholic times of England it was usual to dramatise the descent of the Holy Ghost, which this festival com­memorates,—a custom we find alluded to in Barnaby G-ooge's translation of Naogeorgus:
" On Whit-sunday whyte pigeons tame in strings from heaven flie, And one that framed is of wood stiJl hangeth in the skie. Thou seest how they with idols play, and teach the people too; None otherwise than little gyrls with puppets used to do."
In an old Computus, anno 1509, of St. Patrick's, Dublin, we find iv8- viid< paid to those playing with the great and little angel and the dragon; iii8, paid for little cords employed about the Holy Ghost; iv8, vid# for making the angel (thurifi-cantis) censing, and iis- iid- for cords of it—all on the feast of Pentecost.—Every Day Book, vol. i. p. 685.
Whitsunday is observed as a Scarlet Day in the Univer­sities of Oxford and Cambridge.—Kalendar of the English Church, 1865, p. 73.
The origin of the term Whitsunday has been warmly contested by various writers, and still seems to be an un­decided question. For an interesting article on this subject, see N. & Q. 5th S. vol. i. pp. 401-403. Consult also N. & Q. 2nd S. vol. ii. p. 154; 3rd S. vol vii. p. 479 ; 4,th S. vol. xi. p. 437. Dr. Neale's Church Festivals and their Household Words.The Prayer Book Interleaved (Champion and Beaumont).
Whitsun Ale.— Ale was so prevalent a drink amongst us in old times, as to become a part of the name of various festal meetings, as Leet-ale, Lamb-ale, Bride-ale (bridal), and, as we see, Whitsun-ale. It was the custom of our ancestors to have parochial meetings every Whitsuntide, usually in some barn near the church, consisting of a kind of picnic, as each parishioner brought what victuals he could spare. The ale, which had been brewed pretty strong for the occasion, was sold by the churchwardens, and from its profits a fund arose for the repair of the church.—See Book of Days, vol. i. p. 637; also Brand, Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. pp. 276, 283.
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