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.                                       481
charge of the cakes and ale being defrayed) they not only repaired their church, but kept the poor too, which charges are not now perhaps so cheerfully borne.
There is an ancient payment made by the chamberlain of the corporation of Stafford, of an annual sum of money, generally six shillings, at Christmas, for the purchasing of plums, to be distributed among the inhabitants of certain old houses in the liberty of Forebridge.
The origin of this payment is ascribed by general reputa­tion to the bounty of some individual who heard from some poor children a complaint on Christmas Day that they had no plums for a pudding; and it is reported that he counted the houses then in the place, and made provision for the supply of a pound of plums for each house. The money received is laid out in plums, which are divided into equal quantities, and made up into parcels, one for each of the houses, fifteen or sixteen in number, entitled by the established usage to receive a portion, without reference to the circum­stances of the inhabitants.— Old English Customs and Charities, p. 5.
Brand (Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 489) alludes to a custom practised in the neighbourhood of Bury St, Edmunds among the young men, of hunting owls and squirrels on Christmas Day.
In 1358, at Hawstead, the customary tenants paid their lord at Christmas a small rent, called offering silver. Eleven of them paid in all xviijd* In 1386 the Christmas offerings made by the master for his domestics amounted to xiiijd* for seven servants.—Cullum, History of Hawstead, 1813, pp. 13-14.
At Kendal, if a man be found at work in Christmas week his fellow-tradesmen lay violent hands on him, and carry him on a pole to the ale-house, where he is to treat them. —Southey's Common Place Book, 1851, 4th series, p. 351.
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