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. 24.]                         CHRISTMAS EVE.                                   451
takes off the winnow sheet, and the person receives a three­pence, makes a low obeisance to the judges, but speaks not a word. When the second servant was brought, the younger judge guessed first and third; and this they did alternately till all the money was given away. Whatever servant had not slept in the house the preceding night forfeited his right to the money. No account is given of the origin of this strange custom, but it has been practised ever since the family lived here. When the money is gone the servants have full liberty to drink, dance, sing, and go to bed when they please. Brand (Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 472), speaking of this custom, says, can it be what Aubrey, in his introduction to his Survey of Wiltshire, calls " Cob-loaf-stealing r
There is in Yorkshire a custom, which has been by the country people more or less revived, ever since the alteration in the style and calendar, namely, of watching, on the mid­night of the new and old Christmas Eve, by beehives, to determine upon the right Christmas from the humming noise which they suppose the bees will make when the birth of our Saviour took place.—Gent. Mag. 18] 1, vol. lxxxi. part. i. p. 424.
Christmas Eve in Yorkshire, says a writer in Time's Telescope (1822, p. 298), is celebrated in a peculiar manner at eight o'clock in the evening the bells greet " Old Father Christmas " with a merry peal, the children parade the streets with drums, trumpets, bells, or perhaps, in their absence, with the poker and shovel, taken from their humble cottage fire ; the yule candle is lighted, and—
" High on the cheerful fire Is blazing seen th' enormous Christmas brand."
Supper is served, of which one dish, from the lordly mansion to the humblest shed, is invariably furmety ; yule cake, one of which is always made for each individual in the family, and other more substantial viands are also added.
At St. Cuthbert's Church, Ackworth, a sheaf of corn was at one time suspended on Christmas Eve outside the porch,
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