Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
those burning tapers and torches standing upon and near the high Altar." 68 Ripon Cathedral, as late as the eighteenth century, was brilliantly illuminated with candles on the Sunday before the festival., And, to come to domestic customs, at Lyme Regis in Dorsetshire the person who bought the wood-ashes of a family used to send a present of a large candle at Candlemas. It was lighted at night, and round it there was festive drinking until its going out gave the signal for retirement to rest.70
There are other British Candlemas customs connected with fire. In the western isles of Scotland, says an early eighteenth-cen­tury writer, " as Candlemas Day comes round, the mistress and servants of each family taking a sheaf of oats, dress it up in woman's apparel, and after putting it in a large basket, beside which a wooden club is placed, they cry three times, * Briid is come ! Briid is welcome !' This they do just before going to bed, and as soon as they rise in the morning, they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Briid's club there, which if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and pros­perous year, and the contrary they take as an ill-omen." 7» Sir Laurence Gomme regards this as an illustration of belief in a house-spirit whose residence is the hearth and whose element is the ever-burning sacred flame. He also considers the Lyme Regis custom mentioned above to be a modernized relic of the sacred hearth-fire.72
Again, the feast of the Purification was the time to kindle a " brand " preserved from the Christmas log. Herrick's Candlemas lines may be recalled :—
"Kindle the Christmas brand, and then Till sunne-set let it burne ; Which quencht, then lay it up agen, Till Christmas next returne.
Part must be kept wherewith to teend
The Christmas Log next yeare ; And where 'tis safely kept, the Fiend
Can do no mischiefe there." 73
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