British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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498                           holy innocents' day.                 [Dec. 28.
was especially inauspicious. It is said of the equally super­stitious and unprincipled monarch, Louis XI., that he would never perform any business, or enter into any discussion about his affairs, on this day, and to make to him then any proposal of the kind was certain to exasperate him to the utmost. We are informed too that, in England, on the occa­sion of the coronation of King Edward IV., that solemnity which had been originally intended to take place on Sunday, was postponed till the Monday, owing to the former day being in that year the festival of Childermas. This idea of the inauspicious nature of the day was long prevalent, and is even yet not wholly extinct. To the present hour the housewives in Cornwall, and probably also in other parts of the country, refrain scrupulously from scouring or scrubbing on Innocents' Day.—Book of Days, vol. ii. p. 776.
It was, moreover, not considered lucky upon this day to put on new clothes or pare the nails.
In 1517, however, King Henry VIII., by an order, en­joined, " that the King of Cockneys, on Childermas Day, should sit and have due service; and that he and all his officers should use honest manner and good order, without any waste or destruction making in wine, brawn, chely, or other vitails; and also that he and his marshal, butler, and constable marshal, should have their lawful and honest commandments by delivery of the officers of Christmas, and that the said King of Cockneys, he, none of his officers, medyl neither in the buttery nor in the stuard of Christmass, his officer, upon pain of 40s. for every such meddling; and lastly, that Jack Straw and all his adherents should be thenceforth utterly banisht, and no more to be used in this house, upon pain to forfeit, for every time, five pounds, to be levied on every fellow happening to offend against this rule."—Every Day Book, 1862, vol. i. p. 1648; Dugdale's Orig. Jurid.
It was at one time customary on this day to whip the juvenile members of a family. Gregory remarks that "it hath been a custom, and yet is elsewhere, to whip up the children upon Innocents' Day morning, that the memorie of this murther might stick the closer; and, in a moderate propor­tion, to act over the crueltie again in kind." Gregory also states another custom, on the authority of an old ritual
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