British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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458                                    CHRISTMAS DAY.                        [DEC. 25.
mately to be derived from the custom prevalent during the Saturnalia of the inhabitants of Rome, ornamenting their temples and dwellings with green boughs.
The favourite plants for church decoration at Christum s are holly, bay, rosemary, and laurel. Ivy is rather objec­tionable, from its associations, having anciently been sacred to Bacchus. Cypress seems inappropriate from its funereal relations. One plant, in special, is excluded—the mistletoe. Ibid. p. 753.
Game Pies.—These were formerly made at the season of Christmas. In the books of the Salters' Company, London, is the following—
"Receipt. Fit to make a moost choyce paaste of gamys to be eten at ye Feste of Chrystmasse " (17th Richard II a.d. 1394). A pie so made by the company's cook in 1836 was found excellent. It consisted of a pheasant, hare, and a capon; two partridges, two pigeons, and two rabbits; all boned and put into paste in the shape of a bird, with the livers and hearts, two mutton kidneys, forced meats, and egg-balls, seasoning, spice, catsup and pickled mushrooms, filled up with gravy made from the various bones.—See Timbs' Something for Everybody, 1861, p. 148.
Mince Pies. — These were popular under the name of " mutton pies " so early as 1596 : Book of Days, vol. ii. p. 755. They were also known as Shred and Christmas pies. Thus, in Sheppard'si?p£"?ws(1651, p. 121), we find the following:—
" No matter for plomb-porridge or Shrid pies;" and Herrick, alluding to the custom of setting a watch upon the pies the night before Christmas, says:
* Come guard this night the Christmas pie, That the thief, though ne'er so sly, With his flesh-hooks don't come nigh, To catch it."
Brand (Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 527), quoting from an old tract, printed about the time of Elizabeth, or James L, says they were also called Minched pies.
Selden, in his Table Talk, tells us that mince pies were baked in a coffin-shaped crust, intended to represent the cratch or manger wherein the infant Jesus was laid. This statement may be regarded, however, as improbable, as in
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