British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Deo. 24.]                       Christmas eve.                                447
amusements, the diversions being heightened when the faggot blazes on the hearth, as a quart of cyder is considered due and is called for and served upon the bursting of every hoop or band round the faggot. The timber being green and elastic, each band generally bursts open with a smart report when the individual stick or hoop has been partially burned through.—N. &. Q. 1st S. vol. iv. p. 309.
In one or two localities, it is still customary for the farmer with his family and friends, after partaking together of hot cakes and cider (the cake being dipped in the liquor previous to being eaten), to proceed to the orchard, one of the party bearing hot cake and cider as an offering to the principal apple-tree. The cake is formally deposited on the fork of the tree, and the cider thrown over the latter.*—See Book of Days, vol. ii. p. 736.
A superstitious notion prevails in the western parts of Devonshire that, at twelve o'clock at night on Christmas Eve, the oxen in their stalls are always found on their knees, as in an attitude of devotion, and that since the alteration of the style they continue to do this only on the eve of Old Christmas Day.—Brand, Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 473.
It appears, from a statement of charities in an old book, that John Martyn, by will, 28th of November, 1729, gave to the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the parish of St. Mary Major, Exeter, twenty pounds, to be put out at interest, and the profits thereof to be laid out every Christmas Eve in twenty pieces of beef, to be distributed to twenty poor people of the parish, such as had no relief on that day, for ever.—Old English Customs and Charities, 1842, p. 4.
It appears by the benefaction table in the church of Ruardean, that the Rev. Mr. Anthony Sterry, vicar of Lidney, gave by deed, in the fortieth year of Queen Elizabeth, five shillings per annum, payable out of an estate called the Glasp, in this parish, for ringing a peal on Christmas Eve, about midnight, for two hours, in commemoration of the Nativity.—Old English Customs and Charities, 1842, p. 6.
* In some places this custom is observed on New Years Eve.
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