British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Dec. 6.]
ST. NICHOLAS5 DAY.
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for him; and one from the pen of Erasmus, "Concio do puero Iesu," spoken by a boy of St. Paul's School, London, is still extant, and Dean Colet, the founder of that seminary, in his statutes for it, ordained that "all these children shall, every Childermas Daye, come to Paulis Churche, and hear the childe bishop sermon; and after be at the high masse, and each of them offer a id' to the childe bysshop, and with them the maisters and surveyors of the scole." At evensong bishop Nicholas and his clerks officiated as on the day before, and until Archbishop Peckham's times, used to take some conspicuous part in the services of the church during the whole octave of Childermas tide. About 1279 a.d. that primate decreed, however, thus :—uPuerilia autem solennia, qme in festo solent fieri Innocentum post vesperas S. Johannis tantum inchoari permittimus, et in crastino in ipsa die Innocentum totaliter terminentur." This festival, like St. Nicholas' Day, had its good things; and then, as now, was marked by a better dinner in nunneries, wherein the little boys who had served at the altars of the nuns* churches were not forgotten, as we see by the expenses of St. Mary de Prees: " Paid for makyng of the dyner to the susters upon Childermas Day, iiis* iiijd* It. Paid for brede and ale for Saint Nicholas, iii8-
If schoolboys had the patron St. Nicholas, little girls had their patroness too, St. Catherine, who by her learning overthrew the cavilings of many heathen philosophers and won some of them to Christianity. On this holy martyr's festival, therefore, did the girls walk about the towns in their procession. All this was looked upon with a scowl by those who pulled down the Church of God in this land: hence Cranmer, towards the end of Henry VIII.'s reign, forbade these and other like processions :—" Whereas heretofore dyverse and many superstitious (?) and childysshe observa­tions have been used, and yet to this day are observed and kept in many and sondry parties of this realm, as upon Sainte Nicolas, Sainte Catheryne, Sainte Clement, the Holy Innocentes, and such like ; children be strangelye decked and apparelid to counterfaite priestes, byshoppes, and women ; and so ledde with songes and daunces from house to house, bleassing the people, and gatherynge of monye, and boyes doo
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