Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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GUY FAWKES DAY
treason and plot" is but a modern meaning attached to an ancient traditional practice, for the burning of the effigy has many parallels in folk-custom. Dr. Frazer48 regards such effigies as representatives of the spirit of vegetation—by burning them in a fire that represented the sun men thought they secured sunshine for trees and crops. Later, when the ideas on which the custom was based had faded away, people came to identify these images with persons whom they regarded with aversion, such as Judas Iscariot, Luther (in Catholic Tyrol), and, apparently, Guy Fawkes in England. At Ludlow in Shropshire, it is interesting to note, if any well-known local man had aroused the enmity of the populace his effigy was substituted for, or added to, that of Guy Fawkes. Bonfire Day at Ludlow is marked by a torchlight procession and a huge conflagration.49 At Hampstead the Guy Fawkes fire and procession are still in great force. The thing has become a regular carnival, and on a foggy November night the procession along the steep curving Heath Street, with the glare of the torches lighting up the faces of dense crowds, is a strangely picturesque spectacle.*
Animal Masks.
On All Souls' Day in Cheshire there began to be carried about a curious construction called " Old Hob," a horse's head enveloped in a sheet ; it was taken from door to door, and accom­panied by the singing of begging rhymes.5° Old Hob, who continued to appear until Christmas, is an English parallel to the German Schimmel or white horse. We have here to do with one of those strange animal forms which are apparently relics of sacrificial customs. They come on various days in the winter festival season, and also at other times, and may as well be con­sidered at this point. In some cases they are definitely imitations of animals, and may have replaced real sacrificial beasts taken about in procession, in others they are simply men wearing the head, horn, hide, or tail of a beast, like the worshippers at many
* Attempts are being made to suppress the November carnival at Hampstead, and perhaps the 1911 celebration may prove to have been the last.
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