BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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154                             THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
which " consists in changing clothes between men and women, who, when dressed in each other's habits, go from one neighbor's house to another, partaking of Christmas cheer, and making merry with them in disguise ;"—and which practice he traces directly to the Roman Sigillaria. In various parts of the continent, also, —as in France and Germany,—certain forms of mumming long existed, which appear to have been originally borrowed from the rites of idolatry : and the Scottish Guisars, or Guisarts—if the very ingenious explanation of their hogmanay cry, given by Mr. Repp (and for which we refer our readers to vol. iv., part I., of Archseologia Scotica) be correct—connect themselves with the superstitions of the northern nations.
Amongst the forms of ancient mumming which have come down to the present, or recent times, we may observe that the hobby-horse formed, as late as the seventeenth century, a promi­nent character,—and that something of this kind seems still to exist. Dr. Plot, in his " History of Staffordshire*' mentions a performance called the " Hobby-horse Dance," as having taken place, at Abbott's Bromley, .during the Christmas season, within the memory of man ;—and we have already shown that a modi­fication of the same practice continues to the present day, or did to within a few years back, in the isle of Thanet. This dance is described Dr. Plot, as being composed by " a person who car­ried the image of a horse between his legs, made of thin boards, and in his hands a bow and arrow. The latter, passing through a hole in the bow, and stopping on a shoulder, made a snapping noise, when drawn to and fro, keeping time with the music. With this man danced six others, carrying on their shoulders as many rein-deer heads, with the arms of the chief families to whom the revenues of the town belonged. They danced the heys and other country dances. To the above Hobby-horse, there belonged a pot, which was kept by turns by the reeves of the town, who provided cakes and ale to put into this pot: all people who had any kindness for the good intent of the institution of the sport, giving pence a-piece for themselves and families. Foreigners, also, that came to see it, contributed ; and the money, after defray­ing the expense of the cakes and ale, went to repair the church, and support the poor." A reason given by some, as the origin of
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