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. 25.]                      christmas day.                                467
By the will of John Popple, dated the 12th of March, 1830, 41. yearly is to be paid unto the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers of the poor of the parish of Burnham, to provide for the poor people who should be residing in the poorhouse, a dinner, with a proper quantity of good ale and likewise with tobacco and snuff.—Old English Customs and Charities, 1842, p. 4.
Up to about 1813, a bull and boar, a sack of wheat, and a sack of malt were given away to the poor by the lord of the manor of Prince's Risborough about six o'clock every Christmas morning. This practice was then discontinued, and for about five or six years after the discontinuance, beef and mutton were distributed to the poor about Christmas in lieu of the above articles,— Ibid. p. 66.
The following extract is taken from the Gent Mag. (1753, vol. xxiii. p. 49):—At Quainton, above two thousand people went, with lanterns and candles, to view a blackthorn in that neighbourhood, and which was remembered to be a slip from the famous Glastonbury thorn, and that it always budded on the 24th, was full blown the next day, and went all off at night. The people finding no appearance of a bud, it was agreed by all that December 25th (New Style) could not be the right Christmas Day, and accordingly refused going to church, and treating their friends on that day as usual. At length the affair became so serious, that the ministers of the neighbouring villages, in order to appease them, thought it prudent to give notice that the Old Christmas Day should be kept holy as before.
This famous hawthorn was supposed to be sprung from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, who having fixed it in the ground with his own hand on Christmas Day, it took root immediately, put forth leaves, and the next day was covered with milk-white blossoms.*—See Hearne's History and Antiquities of Glastonbury, 1722.
* Collinson, in his History of Somersetshire (1791), alludes to the miraculous walnut-tree, which grew in the Abbey churchyard of Glastonbury, and never budded forth before the feast of St. B.irnabas, viz., 11th June, and on that very diy shot forth leaves, and flourished.
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