British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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478                                    CHRISTMAS DAY.                        [DEC. 2$
Our steward has provided this In honour of the King of bliss, Which on this day to be served is, In lieginensi atrio.
Choiius, Caput apri" &c.
According to Mr. Wade (Walks in Oxford, 1817, vol. i. p. 128) the usage is in commemoration of an act of valour performed by a student of the college, who, while walking in the neighbouring forest of Shotover, and reading Aristotle, was suddenly attacked by a wild boar. The furious beast came open-mouthed upon the youth, who, however, very courageously, and with a happy presence of mind, rammed in the volume, and crying Grcecutn est, fairly choked the savage.
In an audit-book of Trinity College for the year 1559, Warton found a disbursement "pro prandio Principis natalicii" A Christmas prince, or Lord of Misrule, he adds, corresponding to the Imperator at Cambridge, was a common temporary magistrate in the colleges of Oxford.— See Brand's Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 498; The Antiquary, 1873, vol. iii. p. 53; Wood, in his Athence Oxonienses, alludes to the Christmas prince at St. John's and Merton Colleges.
Mummings at Christmas are common in Oxfordshire. At Islip some of the mummers wear masks, others, who cannot get masks, black their faces and dress themselves up with liaybands tied round their arms and bodies. The smaller boys black their faces, and go about singing—
" A merry Christmas and a happy new year, Your pecketc* full of money, and your cellars full of beer."
Brand, Fop Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 466.
Dr. Lee, in N. & Q. (5th S. vol. ii. pp. 503-505), has given a curious old miracle play, the text of which he says was taken down by himself from the lips of one of the per­formers in 1853.
Aubrey informs us that in several parts of -Oxfordshire it was the custom for the maidservant to ask the man for ivy to decorate the house, and if he refused or neglected to fetch
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