British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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472                                       CHRISTMAS DAY.                           [DEC. 25.
account is taken from Busby's Concert Room and Orchestra Anecdotes (1825, vol. i. p. 73) :—
A party of young people procure the head of a dead horse, which is affixed to a pole about four feet in length, a string is tied to the lower jaw, a horsecloth is then attached to the whole, under which one of the party gets, and by frequently pulling the string keeps up a loud snapping noise, and is accompanied by the rest of the party grotesquely habited and ringing hand-bells. They thus proceed from house to house, sounding their bells and singing carols and songs. They are commonly gratified with beer and cake, or perhaps with money. This is provincially called a hodening; and the figure above described a "hoden," or wooden horse.
This curious ceremony is also observed in the Isle of Thanet on Christmas Eve, and is supposed to be an ancient relic of a festival ordained to commemorate our Saxon ancestors' landing in that island.
The following description of primitive manners in the houses of the gentry at Christmas is extracted by Baines (Hist, of Lancashire, vol. iii. p. 294) from a family manu­script of the Cunliffes, of Wycoller, in Lancashire, and refers to an age antecedent to the wars of the Parliament:—" At Wycoller-Hall the family usually kept open house the twelve days at Christmas. Their entertainment was a large hall of curious ashler wood, a long table, plenty of furmerty, like new milk, in a morning, made of husked wheat boiled, roasted beef with fat goose and a pudding, with plenty of good beer for dinner. A roundabout fire-place, surrounded with stone benches, where the young folks sat and cracked nuts, and diverted themselves; and in this manner the sons and daughters got matching without going much from home." —See Med. AEvi Kalend. vol. i. p. 91.
Isle of Man.
Train, in his History of the Isle of Man (1845, vol. ii. p. 127), says :—The Christmas festival is introduced by young
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