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.                                   479
in a supply the maids stole a pair of his breeches, and nailed them up to the gate in the yard or highway. A similar usage prevailed in other places, when the refusal to comply with such a request incurred the penalty of being debarred from the well-known privilege of the mistletoe.—See Book of Days, vol. ii. p. 753.
Scilly Isles.
Troutbeck, in his State of the Scilly Isles (1796, p. 172), gives the following account of how Christmas was celebrated in his time. The young people, he says, exercise a sort of gallantry among themselves, which they call goose-dancing, when the maidens are dressed up for young men and the young men for maidens. In the day time they dance about the streets in masquerade, vieing with each other who can appear the most uncouth. In the evenings they visit their neighbours in companies, where they dance and make their jokes upon what has happened in the islands. By this sort of sport according to yearly custom and tolera­tion, there is a spirit of wit and drollery kept up among the people. The maidens, who are sometimes dressed up for sea captains and other officers, display their alluring graces to the ladies, who are young men equipped for that purpose; and the ladies exert their talents to them in courtly addresses, tlieir hangers are sometimes drawn, &c, after which, and other pieces of drollery, the scene shifts to music and dancing, which being over they are treated with liquor and then go to the next house of entertainment.
They have a custom also of singing carols at church on Christmas Day, to which the congregation make contributions by dropping money into a hat carried about the church when the performance is over.—Heath's Account of the Scilly Isles, p. 125.
At West Hatch the reeve or bailiff to the manor provided at the lord's expense a feast on Christmas Day, and dis­tributed to each householder, a loaf of bread, a pound and a half of beef, and the like quantity of pork, undressed, and the same evening treated them with a supper.—Collinson, History of County of Somerset, 1791, vol. ii. p. 186.
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