British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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488                                    CHRISTMAS.DAY.                        [Dec. 25.
is not only personified, but treated as a deity, are evidently of heathen origin. It is common also to have a table covered in the house, from morning until evening, with bread and drink upon it, that every one who calls may take a portion, and it is considered particularly inauspicious if any one comes into a house and leaves it without doing so. Whatever number of persons call on this day, all must partake of the good cheer.—Med. AEvi Kalend. vol. i. p. 48 ; see Jamieson, Efymol. Diet, Art. Yule.
Any servant who is supposed to have a due regard to the interests of the family, and is not at the same time emanci­pated from the yoke of superstition, is careful to go early to the well on Christmas morning to draw water, pull the corn out of the sack, and also to bring kale from the kitchen garden. This is intended to insure prosperity to the family (Ibid. p. 99). It is in fact the same as the Usque Cashrichd, which was noticed among the superstitious customs of the first of January.—See p. 17.
The doings of the guisards (that is, masquers), says Chambers (Pop. Rhymes, 1870, p. 169), form a conspicuous feature in the New Year proceedings throughout Scotland. The evenings on which these personages are understood to be privileged to appear, are those of Christmas, Hogmanay, New Year's Day, and Handsel Monday. Dressed up in quaint and fantastic attire, they sing a selection of songs which have been practised by them some weeks before. There were important doings, however, one of a theatrical character. There is one rude and grotesque drama (called Galatian) which they are accustomed to perform on each of the four above mentioned nights, and which in various fragments or versions exists in every part of Lowland Scotland. The performers, who are never less than three, but sometimes as many as six, having dressed themselves, proceed in a band from house to house, generally contenting themselves with the kitchen for an arena, whither in man­sions, presided over by the spirit of good humour, the whole family will resort to witness the scene of mirth.—See Chambers' Pop. Bhyme89 p. 170.
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