British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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436                                ST. NICHOLAS' DAY.                        [DEC. 6.
singe masse and preache in the pulpitt . . . the Kyng's majestie willith and commaundeth that from henceforth all suche superstitions be loste and clyerlye exstinguished," &c. Queen Mary restored these rites, and the people were glad to see this, along with other of their old religious usages, given back to them; and an eye-witness tells us that, in a.d. 1556, " the V. day of December was Sant Necolas evyn, and Sant Necolas whentt abrod in most partt in London, syngyng after the old fassyon, and was reseyvyd with mony good pepulle into their howses, and had mych good chere as ever they had, in mony plasses "
Some have thought that it was owing to his early abstinence that St. Nicholas was chosen patron of schoolboys; a better reason perhaps is given to us by a writer in the Gent. Mag. (1777, vol. xlvii. p. 158), who mentions having in his posses­sion an Italian life of St. Nicholas, from which he translates the following story, which explains the occasion of boys addressing themselves to St. Nicholas' patronage:—
" The fame of St. Nicholas' virtues was so great that an Asiatic gentleman, on sending his two sons to Athens for education, ordered them to call on the bishop for his bene­diction ; but they, getting to Myra late in the day, thought proper to defer their visit till the morrow, and took up their lodgings at an inn, where the landlord, to secure their bag­gage and effects to himself, murdered them in their sleep and then cut them into pieces, salting them, and putting them into a pickling tub with some pork, which was there already, meaning to sell the whole as such. The bishop, however, having a vision of this impious transaction, im­mediately resorted to the inn, and calling the host to him, reproached him for his horrid villany. The man, perceiving that he was discovered, confessed his crime, and entreated the bishop to intercede on his behalf to the Almighty for his pardon, who being moved with compassion at his contrite behaviour, confession, and thorough repentance, besought Almighty God not only to pardon the murderer, but also, for the glory of His name, to restore life to the poor innocents who had been so inhumanly put to death. The saint had hardly finished his prayer when the mangled and detached portions of the youths were, by Divine Power, reunited, and
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