British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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468                                 christmas day.                      [dec. 25.
At Clare Hall, in Cambridge, a collar of brawn is always provided for the Fellows' table on Christmas Day, which comes up every day during the twelve days and then makes another and last appearance on Candlemas Day. A sprig of ivy with berries is stuck in the centre of the top; the berries are first dipped in flour, probably to represent the hoar frost.—Time's Telescope, 1863, p. 338.
Hitchins, in his History of Cornwall (1824, vol. i. p. 718), gives the following account of the Christmas plays, which at one time were performed in this county at Christmas. He says, the lads who engage in these theatrical representations appear fantastically dressed, decorated with ribbons and painted paper, with wooden swords, and all the equipage necessary to support the several characters they assume. To entertain their auditors, they learn to repeat a barbarous jargon, in the form of a drama, which has been handed down from distant generations. War and love are the general topics, and St. George and the Dragon are always the most prominent characters. Interludes, expostulations, debate, battle, and death, are sure to find a place among the mimicry; but a physician who is always at hand immediately restores the dead to life. It is generally understood that these Christmas plays derived their origin from the ancient crusades, and hence the feats of chivalry and the romantic extravagance of knight-errantry that are still preserved in all the varied pretensions and exploits.—See Every Dan Boole, 1827, vol. ii. p. 122.
It was customary at one time in Cornwall on the last Thursday that was one clear week before Christmas Day, .which was anciently called jeu-nhydn, or White Thursday, for the tinners to claim a holiday, because, according to tradition, on this day black tin or ore was first melted or turned into white tin or metal in these parts.—Hitchias, History of Cornwall. 1824, vol. L p. 725.
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