BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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194                           THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
seasons, and under certain circumstances:—and they are sup­posed to be either words of betrayal, leaving the speaker open to the machinations of evil spirits, who may apply them in a strained and fatal sense, if at all ambiguous,—or words of power, con­trolling the designs of demons, and compelling them to work out the good of the utterer, against their will. Now, a superstition of this kind, Mr. Repp says, attaches generally to the doctrines of demonology; and he states that he could prove his position, by many instances from Arabic and Persian fairy lore. We may observe that some of the Highland superstitions mentioned by Mr. Stewart,—such as that of sprinkling the household with water, drawn from the dead and living ford,—and that of fumigating the apartments, and half smothering their tenants with the smoke from burning piles of the juniper-bush (both considered to operate as charms against the spells of witchcraft, and the malig­nity of evil eyes), have, evidently, their origin in that same belief,—that the powers of evil are on the wing at this mysterious and solemn time of natural transition.
Some ancient superstitions are likewise alluded to in the old dialogue of Dives and Pauper, as being in force at the beginning of the year,—and which appear to have had a like origin with the Highland ones above described. As an example, mention may be made of the practice of " setting of mete or drynke, by nighte, on the benche, to fede Alholde or Gobelyn."
We must not forget to observe that Brand speaks of an ancient custom, which he says is still retained in some parts of England, —in which young women go about on this eve, carrying a was­sail-bowl, and singing certain verses from door to door;—which custom has certainly some analogy with the Hogmanay practice in Scotland. And we may further state, while we are in the way of tracing resemblances, that the het pint, which, in Scotland, was formerly carried about the streets at the midnight of the new year's coming in,—and which was composed of ale, spirits, sugar, and nutmeg or cinnamon—is neither more nor less, though it was borne about in a kettle, than a Scottish version of the wassail-bowl.
In Ritson's collection of ancient songs, there is a very spirited carol given, at length,—which appears to have been sung by these
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