British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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496                             st. Stephen's day.                     [Dec. 26.
the close of St. Stephen's Day, has long since been abandoned ; and the sea-shore or some waste ground was substituted in its place.
It is an old custom in the town of East Dereham, to ring a muffled peal from the church tower on the morning of St. Stephen's Day.—N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. iii. p. 69.
The three vicars of Bampton, give beef and beer on the morning of St. Stephen's Day to those who choose to partake of it. This is called St. Stephen's breakfast.—Southey's Common Place Book, ith S. 1851, p. 395.
A correspondent of the Gent. Mag. (1811, vol. lxxxi. pt. i. p. 423) says, that in the North Hiding of Yorkshire on the feast of St. Stephen large goose pies are made, all of which they distribute among their needy neighbours, except one, which is carefully laid up, and not tasted till the Purifi­cation of the Virgin, called Candlemas.
On this day, also, six youths, clad in white and bedecked with ribbands, with swords in their hands, travel from one village to another, performing the " sword dance." They are attended by a fiddler, a youth whimsically dressed, named "Bessy," and by one who personates a physician. One of the six youths acts the part of a king in a sort of farce, which consists chiefly of music and dancing, when the " Bessy " interferes while they are making a hexagon with their swords, and is killed.—Time's Telescope, 1814, p. 315.
On St. Stephen's Day, everybody is privileged to whip another person's legs with holly, and this is often reciprocally done till the blood streams down.—Southey's Common Place Book (1851,1th S. p. 365). In Mason's Tales and Traditions of Tenby (1858, p. 5) this custom is alluded to as being celebrated at that place.
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