BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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ST. THOMAS'S DAY,
155
this practice, we have already stated in our mention of " hoden-ing,"—and our readers will see that its object, like that of the other similar observances of this season, was charity.
In some parts of the north of England, a custom exists, to the present time, which appears to be composed of the ancient Roman sword-dance—or, perhaps, the sword-dance of the northern nations —and lingering traces of the obsolete " Festival of Fools." This practice, which is called the " Fool Plough," consists in a pageant composed of " a number of sword-dancers, dragging a plough, with music, and one, sometimes two, in very strange attire;—the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman,—and the fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these cha­racters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about, rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations." Our readers will probably remember that a set of these mummers are introduced by Washington Irving, in his account of a Christmas spent in Yorkshire.
The old Christmas play of St. George and the Dragon is, still, amongst the popular amusements of this season, in many parts of England. Whether this particular kind of performance is to be considered as dating from the return of the Crusaders,—or that similar representations had existed previously, the characters of which alone were changed by that event, does not appear, from any other remains that have reached us. There is evidence, however, that plays founded upon the legend of St. George, are of a very remote date ; and, in all probability, they were intro­duced not long after the age of the Crusades. From various contributors to Mr. Hone's " Every Day Book," we learn that versions of these plays are still performed, amongst the lower orders, at the Christmas tide, in the extreme wes'ern counties of England,—as also in Cumberland, and some others of the more northern ones :—and one of those correspondents, dating from Falkirk, gives an account of a play still performed by the Guisars, in some parts of Scotland, which is of similar construction, and evidently borrowed from the same source ; but in which one Gal-gacus is substituted for St. George, as the hero of the piece,—and the drama is mado, by that substitulhn. to commemorate the suc-
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