British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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476                                 christmas DAY.                       [dec. 25.
Cole, in his History of Weston Favell (1827, p. 60), says Christmas Day is ushered in by the ringing of the bells of the church, precisely at twelve o'clock, called the midnight peal, till which time many of the inhabitants sit round the jovial fire, whence at twelve o'clock they emerge into the midnight air to listen to the peals of the bells of the neigh­bouring churches.
In Alnwick a custom existed of giving sweetmeats to children at Christmas time, called Yule Babies, in commemo­ration of our Saviour's nativity.—History of Alnwick, 1822, p. 262.
The inhabitants of North Clifton were formerly ferry free. In consequence, the ferryman and his dog were indulged with a dinner each at the vicar's at Christmas. The ferryman also on that day received of the inhabitants a prime loaf of bread.—N. & Q. 5th S. vol. ii. p. 509.
Near Ealeigh there is a valley said to have been caused by an earthquake several hundred years ago, which swallowed up a whole village, together with the church. Formerly, it was the custom of the people to assemble in this valley every Christmas Day morning to listen to the ringing of the bells of the churcli beneath them. This, it was positively stated, might be heard by placing the ear to the ground and hearken­ing attentively. As late as 1827 it was usual on this morning for old men and women to tell their children and young friends to go to the valley, stoop down, and hear the bells ring merrily. The villagers heard the ringing of the bells of a neighbouring church, the sound of which was com­municated by the surface of the ground. A similar belief * exists, or did a short time ago, at Preston, in Lancashire.— Ibid. p. 509.
In the buttery of St. John's College, Oxford, an ancient candle socket of stone still remains, ornamented with the
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