Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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Evans relates, the house-mother " entered the stall set apart for the goats, and having first sprinkled them with corn, took the wine-cup in her hand and said,« Good morning, little mother! The Peace of God be on thee ! Christ is born ; of a truth II-is born. May'st thou be healthy. I drink to thee in wine j I give thee a pomegranate ; may'st thou meet with all good luck !' She then lifted the cup to her lips, took a sup, tossed the pome­granate among the herd, and throwing her arms round the she-goat, whose health she had already drunk, gave it the ' Peace of God '—kissed it, that is, over and over again." The Bame ceremony was then performed for the benefit of the sheep and cows, and all the animals were beaten with a leafy olive-branch.44
As for the fires, an Irish custom to some extent supplies a parallel. On Epiphany Eve a sieve of oats was set up, "and in it a dozen of candles set round, and in the centre one hit all lighted." This was said to be in memory of the Saviour and His apostles, lights of the world.45 Here is an account of a similar custom practised in Co. Leitrim :—
" A piece of board is covered with cow-dung, and twelve rushlights are stuck therein. These are sprinkled with ash at the top, to make them light easily, and then set alight, each being named by some one present, and as each dies so will the life of its owner. A ball is then made of the dung, and it is placed over the door of the cow-house for an increase of cattle. Sometimes mud is used, and the ball placed over the door of the dwelling-house." -*6
There remains to be considered under Epiphany usages an ancient and very remarkable game played annually on January 6 at Haxey in Lincolnshire. It is known traditionally as " Haxey Hood," and its centre is a struggle between the men of two villages for the possession of a roll of sacking or leather called the " hood." Over it preside the " boggans " or " bullocks " of Plough Monday (see p. 352), headed by a figure known as " My Lord," who is attended by a fool. The proceedings are opened on the village green by a mysterious speech from the fool :—
"Now, good folks, this is Haxa' Hood. We've killed two
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