Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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CHAPTER XII
CHRISTMAS FEASTING AND SACRIFICIAL
SURVIVALS
Prominence of Eating in the English Christmas—The Boar's Head, the Goose, and other Christmas Fare—Frumenty, Sowens, Yule Cakes, and the Wassail Bowl— Continental Christmas Dishes, their Possible Origins—French and German Cakes —The Animals' Christmas Feast—Cakes in Eastern Europe—Relics of Animal Sacrifice—Hunting the Wren—Various Games of Sacrificial Origin.
Feasting Customs.
In the mind of the average sensual Englishman perhaps the most vivid images called up by the word Christmas are those connected with eating and drinking. " Ha piu di fare che i forni di Natale in Inghilterra," * an Italian proverb used of a very busy person, sufficiently suggests the character of our Christmas, t It may be that the Christmas dinner looms larger among the English than among most other peoples, but in every country a distinctive meal of some kind is associated with the season. We have already seen how this illustrates the immemorial connection between material feasting and religious rejoicing.
Let us note some forms of " Christmas fare " and try to get an idea of their origin. First we may look at English feasting customs, though, as they have been pretty fully described by
* " He has more to do than the ovens in England at Christmas."
t The following quotation from an ancient account book is tersely suggestive of the
English Christmas : —
s. d.
" Item payd to the preacher ... ... ... ••• ••• vl 'J
Item payd to the minstrell ... ... ... ••• ••• x" °
Item payd to the coke ... ... ••• ••• •■• *v °
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