140 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
the bellman, who revives the history and poetry of his predecessors, will vociferate—
' My masters all, this is St. Thomas's-day, And Christmas now can't be far off, you'll say. And when you to the Ward-motes do repair, I hope such good men will be chosen there, As constables for the ensuing year, As will not grudge the watchmen good strong beer.' "
We may observe, here, that St. Thomas's Day is commonly called the shortest of the year,—although the difference between its length and that of the twenty-second is not perceptible. The hours of the sun's rising and setting, on each of those days, are marked as the same in our calendar,—and the latter is, sometimes, spoken of as the shortest day.
As the days which intervene between this and the Eve of Christmas are distinguished by no special ceremonial of their own,—and as the numerous observances attached to several.of the particular days which follow, will sufficiently prolong those parts of our subject,—we will take this opportunity of alluding to some of the sports and festivities not peculiar to any one day, but extending, more or less generally, over the entire season.
Burton, in his " Anatomy of Melancholy," mentions, as the winter amusements of his day,—" Carde"s, tables and dice, shovel-board, chesse-play, the philosopher's game, small trunkes, shuttle-cocke, billiards, musicke, masks, singing, dancing, ule-games, frolicks, jests, riddles, catches, purposes, questions and commands, merry tales of errant knights, queenes, lovers, lords, ladies, giants, dwarfes, theeves, cheaters, witches, fayries, goblins, friers," &c. Amongst the list of Christmas sports, we elsewhere fipd mention of " jugglers, and jack-puddings, scrambling for nuts and apples, dancing the hobby-horse, hunting owls and squirrels, the fool-plough, hot-cockles, a stick moving on a pivot, with an apple at one end and a candle at the other, so that he who missed his bite burned his nose, blindman's buffs, forfeits, interludes and mock plays:"—also of " thread my needle, Nan," " he can do little that can't do this," feed the dove, hunt the slipper, shoeing the wild mare, post and pair, snap dragon, the gathering of omens,—