British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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June 23.]                     midsummer eve.                                 311
the precincts of which it is wholly included) being held in it annually, on St. Barnabas' Day, in the open air. The suitors assemble by the highway-side, at a place only marked by an ancient thorn, where the annual dues to the lord of the forest, compositions for improvements, &c, are paid; and a jury for the whole jurisdiction chosen from among the in­habitants of twenty mesne manors who attended on this spot. —Britton and Biayley, Beauties of England and Wales, 1802, vol. iii. p. 171.
June 15.]                  ST. VITUS' DAY.
On St. Vitus' Day, says Hazlitt (Brand's Pop. Antiq. 1870, vol. i. p. 166), the Skinners' Company, accompanied by girls strewing herbs in their path, and by Bluecoat boys placed by their patronage on the foundation of Christ's Hospital, march in procession from Dowgate Hill, where their hall is, to St. Antholin's Church, in Watling Street, to hear service.* The sermon, says Hampson (in his Med. AEvi Kalend.yoh i. p. 296), for which the chaplain (who is usually a member of the company, educated at Christ's Hospital or Tunbridge) receives two guineas, has probably arisen out of a pious bequest for the purpose.
On this eve people were in former times accustomed to go into the woods, and break down branches of the trees, which they brought to their homes, and planted over their doors, amidst great demonstrations of joy, to make good the scrip­ture prophecy respecting the Baptist, that many should re­joice in his birth. This custom was at one time universal in England.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 815.
It was a popular superstition that if any unmarried woman fasted on Midsummer Eve, and at midnight laid a clean
* In Brand's Pop. Antiq., 1849, this custom is said to take place on Corpus Cliribti Day.
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