British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

450                                 CHRISTMAS EVE.                       [DeC. 24.
Pointer, in his Oxoniensis Academia (1749, p. 20), says that, at Merton College, Oxford, the fellows meet together in the Hall on Christmas Eve and other solemn times to sing a psalm and drink a grace-cup to one another (called Poculum Charitatis), wishing one another help and happiness. These grace-cups they drink to one another every day after dinner and supper, wishing one another peace and good neighbour­hood.
At Chailey, the following doggerel is sung at the was­sailing of the apple trees:
" Stand fast root, bear well top, Pray the God send us a good howling crop. Every twig, apples big, Every bough, apples enow. Hats full, caps full, Full quarters, sacks full."*
N. & Q.Ut S. vol. v. p. 293.
A correspondent of the Gent Mag. (1795, vol. lxv.p. 110) thus describes an amusement practised on Christmas Eve at Aston Hall, down to the end of last century. As soon as supper is over a table is set in the hall. On it is placed a brown loaf, with twenty silver threepences stuck on the top of it, a tankard of ale, with pipes and tobacco, and the two oldest servants have chairs behind it to sit as judges if they please. The steward brings the servants, both men and women, by one at a time, covered with a winnow sheet, and lays their right hand on the loaf, exposing no other part of the body. The older of the two judges guesses at the person, by naming a name, then the younger judge, and lastly, the older again. If they hit upon the right name, the steward leads the person back again; but if they do not, he
good-will. The Sunday preceding their departure is called Boot Sunday, when all their friends from the neighbouring villages attend to bid them farewell.
* See Eve of Epiphany, p. 21.
Previous Contents Next