British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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426                                st. Catherine's day.                  [Nov. 25.
In Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials (1822, vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 507) is the following notice of this festival:
" The 24th (1556) being St. Katharine's Day (or rather Eve), at six of the clock at night St. Katharine went about the battlements of St. Paul's Church accompanied with fine singing and great lights; this was St. Katharine's procession."
On Cattern Day the lace makers hold merry-makings, and eat a sort of cakes called " wigs " * and drink ale. Tradition says it is in remembrance of Queen Catherine, who, when the trade was dull, burnt all her lace, and ordered new to be made. The ladies of the court could not but follow her example, and the consequence was a great briskness in the manufacture.—N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. i. p. 387.
A paragraph in the Cambridge Ghronicle (December 8th, 1860) alludes to the custom of the carpenters of Chatteris, in the Isle of Ely, observing the feast of their patron Saint, St. Catherine, by dining together, &c.
* Cakes called * wigs " were very commonly sold in the Midland counties some years ago, and they are even mentioned as allowable at the collation in Lent by a Catholic writer nearly two centuries ago. They were light and spongy, and something like very light ginger­bread. As to the derivation of the name " wig " as applied to them, a correspondent of Notes and Queries says he never dreamed of seeing it any where but in the shape of these cakes, which greatly resembled a wig; being round, and having a thick rim round them, which turned up like the curls of a wig of the olden times.—See N. & Q. 3rd. S. vol. i. p. 436.
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