Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
Saints ;* they may be regarded either as a kind of sacrament or the vegetation-spirit, or as simply intended by homoeopathic magic to bring fulness and fruitfulness to their recipients. A custom once common in the north of England 27 and in Wales 28 was to catch at apples with the mouth, the fruit being suspended on a string, or on one end of a large transverse beam with a lighted candle at the other end. In the north apples and nuts were the feature of the evening feast, hence the name " Nutcrack night." 29 Again, at St. Ives in Cornwall every child is given a big apple on Allhallows' Eve—" Allan Day " as it is called.3° Nuts and apples were also used as means of forecasting the future. In Scotland for instance nuts were put into the fire and named after particular lads and lasses. " As they burn quietly together or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the courtship will be.',1 On Hallowe'en in Nottinghamshire if a girl had two lovers and wanted to know which would be the more constant, she took two apple-pips, stuck one on each cheek (naming them after her lovers) and waited for one to fall off. The poet Gay alludes to this custom :—
" See from the core two kernels now I take, This on my cheek for Lubberkin is worn, And Booby Clod on t'other side is borne ; But Booby Clod soon falls upon the ground, A certain token that his love's unsound ; While Lubberkin sticks firmly to the last ; Oh ! were his lips to mine but joined so fast." 32
In Nottinghamshire apples are roasted and the parings thrown over the left shoulder. " Notice is taken of the shapes which the parings assume when they fall to the ground. Whatever letter a paring resembles will be the initial letter of the Christian name of the man or woman whom you will marry." 33
* The prominence of " Eves " in festival customs is a point specially to be noticed ; it is often to them rather than to the actual feast days that old practices cling. This is perhaps connected with the ancient Celtic and Teutonic habit of reckoning by nights instead of days—a trace of this is left in our word "fortnight"—but it must be remembered that the Church encouraged the same tendency by her solemn services on the Eves of festivals, and that the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening.
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