Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
the custom of giving the title " bishop " to the " lord " first of the boys' feast and later of the Feast of Fools.
In the late Middle Ages the Boy Bishop was found not merely in cathedral, monastic, and collegiate churches but in many parish churches throughout England and Scotland. Various inventories of the vestments and ornaments provided for him still exist. With the beginnings of the Reformation came his suppression : a proclamation of Henry VIII., dated July 22, 1541, commands " that from henceforth all suche superstitions be loste and clyerlye extinguisshed throughowte all this his realmes and dominions, forasmoche as the same doo resemble rather the unlawfull superstition of gentilitie [paganism], than the pure and sincere religion of Christe." 25 In Mary's reign the Boy Bishop reappeared, along with other " Popish" usages, but after Elizabeth's accession he naturally fell into oblivion. A few traces of him lingered in the seventeenth century. " The Schoole-boies in the west," says Aubrey, " still religiously observe St. Nicholas day (Decemb. 6th), he was the Patron of the Schooleboies. At Curry-Yeovill in Somersetshire, where there is a Howschole (or schole) in the Church, they have annually at that time a Barrell of good Ale brought into the church ; and that night they have the priviledge to breake open their Masters Cellar-dore." ,
In France he seems to have gradually vanished, as, after the Reformation, the Catholic Church grew more and more "respectable," but traces ot him are to be found in the eighteenth century at Lyons and Rheims ; and at Sens, even in the nineteenth, the choir-boys used to play at being bishops on Innocents' Day and call their " archbishop " anea memory this of the old asinaria festa.27 In Denmark a vague trace of him was retained in the nineteenth century in a children's game. A boy was dressed up in a white shirt, and seated on a chair, and the children sang a verse beginning, " Here we consecrate a Yule-bishop," and offered him nuts and apples.28
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