British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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490                                   CHRISTMAS DAY.                         [DEC. 25.
pastimes or holidays except dancing on Christmas and New Year's Day.
Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Fuller, in his History of Berwick upon Tweed (1799, p. 446), alluding to the customs of that pl$ce, says, there are four men called town waits, who belong to the borough. Their business is to walk before the mayor, recorder, and justices, playing on violins, all the way to and from church on Christmas Day, the day of the election of a mayor, and November the 5th. They also are obliged to attend these gentlemen at their four public dinners.
The Highlands.
As soon as the brightening glow of the eastern sky warns the anxious housemaid of the approach of Christmas Day, she rises, full of anxiety, at the prospect of her morning labours. The meal, which was steeped in the sowans-bowie a fortnight ago to make the Prechdacdan sour or sour scones, is the first object of her attention. The gridiron is put on the fire, and the sour scones are soon followed by hard cakes, soft cakes, buttered cakes, bannocks, and pannich perm. The baking being once over, the so wans pot succeeds the gridiron, full of new sowans, which are to be given to the family, agreeably to custom, this day in their beds. The sowans are boiled into the consistence of molasses, when the lagan-le-vrich or yeast-bread, to distinguish it from boiled sowans, is ready. It is then poured into as many bickers as there are individuals to partake of it, and pre­sently served to the whole, both old and young. As soon as each despatches his bicker, he jumps out of bed—the elder branches to examine the ominous signs of the day, and the younger to enter on its amusements. Flocking to the swing, a favourite amusement on this occasion, the youngest of the family gets the first " shouder," and the next oldest to him in regular succession. In order to add more to the spirit of the exercise, it is a common practice with the person in the swing and the person appointed to swing him to enter into a very warm and humorous altercation. As the swinged
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