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.                                      477
figure of the Holy Lamb. It was formerly used to burn the Christmas candle in, on the high table at supper during the twelve nights of this festival.—Brand, Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 467.
It was formerly a custom for the butcher of Mertun College, about Christmas time, to invite the scholars to a treat at his house, when he used to provide a bull for the steward to knock down with his own hands, whence this treat was called The Kill-Bull.—Pointer, Oxoniensis Academia, 1749, p. 23.
The following account of the ancient custom of bringing in a boar's head at Queen's College, Oxford, is taken from a MS., in the Bodleian Library, quoted in the Antiquary (1873, vol. iii. p. 47):—
There is a custom at Queen's College to serve up every year a boar's head, provided by the manciple against Christ­mas Day. This boar's head being boyl'd or roasted, is laid in a great charger, covered with a garland of bays or laurell as broad at bottom as the brims of the chargers. When the first course is served up in the refectory on Christmas Day, in the said college, the manciple brings the said boar's head from the kitchen up to the high table, accompanied with one of the tabarders (i.e., the scholars), who lays his hand on the charger. The tabarder sings a song, and when he comes to the chorus all the scholars that are in the refectory joyn ' together and sing it:
" The boar's head in hand bear I, Bedeck d with bays and rosemary, And I pray you master merry be, Quotquot estis in convivio.
Chorus. Caput apri defero
Meddtns laudes Domino.
The hoar's head, as I understand, Is the bravest dish in the land, Being thus bedeck'd with a gay garland, Let us sercire convivio.
Chouujs, Caput apri, &c
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