British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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320                                     MIDSUMMER EVE.                           [JUNE 23.
the town to purchase them. Superadded to this bequest is another. About the year 1788 an old bachelor left a sum for the purchase of a twopenny cake for every unmarried resident in Church Street, to be given on Farthing Loaf Day, and also the sum of two guineas to be paid to a household in the said street, as remuneration for providing a supper of bread and cheese and ale, to which every householder in the street should be invited. The householders each take their turn in being host, but with a promise, that none except the occupiers of front houses should enjoy this dignity. The toast directed to be drunk after supper is, " Peace and good neighbourhood." The money required arises from a sum which is lent at interest, annually, to any competent in­habitant of this favoured street, upon his producing two good sureties for the repayment at the end of the year.—Hone's Tear Book, 1838, p. 745; Old English Customs and Charities, p. 241.
On Midsummer Eve, at Ripon, in former days, every housekeeper, who in the course of the year had changed his residence into a new neighbourhood, spread a table before his door in the street with bread, cheese, and ale for those who chose to resort to it. The guests, after staying awhile, if the master was liberally disposed, were invited to supper, and the evening was concluded with mirth and good humour, Every Day Book, vol. ii. p. 866.
Bingley, in his Tour Bound North Wales (1800, vol. ii. p. 237), says: On the Eve of St, John the Baptist they fix sprigs of the plant called St. John's-wort over their doors, and sometimes over their windows, in order to purify their houses, and by that means drive away all fiends and evil spirits.
The Eve of St. John is a great day among the mason-lodges of Scotland. What happens with them at Melrose may be considered as a fair example of the whole.
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