Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE EPIPHANY
to the vineyards, and thrown at their four corners, and also at the foot of apple- and fig-trees.33
This may remind us that in England fruit-trees used to come in for special treatment on the Vigil of the Epiphany, In Devonshire the farmer and his men would go to the orchard with a large jug of cider, and drink the following toast at the foot ..t one of the best-bearing apple-trees, firing guns in conclusion :__
" Here's to thee, old apple-tree,
Whence thou may'st bud, and whence thou may'st blow '
And whence thou may'st bear apples enow ! Hats full ! caps full ! Bushel !—bushel—sacks full, And my pockets full too ! Huzza ! " 34
In seventeenth-century Somersetshire, according to Aubrey, a piece of toast was put upon the roots.35 According to another account each person in the company used to take a cupful of cider, with roasted apples pressed into it, drink part of the contents, and throw the rest at the tree.36 The custom is described by Herrick as a Christmas Eve ceremony :—
" Wassail the trees, that they may bear You many a plum and many a pear ; For more or less fruits they will bring, As you do give them wassailing." 37
In Sussex the wassailing (or "worsling") of fruit-trees took place on Christmas Eve, and was accompanied by a trumpeter blowing on a cow's horn.38
The wassailing of the trees may be regarded as either originally an offering to their spirits or—and this seems more probable— as a sacramental act intended to bring fertilizing influences t<> bear upon them. Customs of a similar character are found in Continental countries during the Christmas season. In I'vr..l, for instance, when the Christmas pies are a-making on St. Thomas's Eve, the maids are told to go out-of-doors and put their arms, sticky with paste, round the fruit-trees, in order that they
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