452 The Book of Indoor and Outdoor Games
by the curling and crackling of the leaves to presage good or evil fortune.
The "wassail bowl" formed part of every Christmas entertainment. Its contents were wine, spiced and sweetened with roasted apples floating on its surface, but, as Leigh Hunt says: " It was a good-natured bowl, accommodating itself to the means of all classes, and was often made of ale, with nutmeg, ginger, sugar, toast and crab-apples roasted." The Saxons also drank "cyder," and "nut-brown ale" was the national beverage.
The Norman Christmas
The Anglo-Norman kings were fond of magnificence, and introduced many new forms of amusement into the great festival. Splendid pageants, the interchange of valuable presents, dancing, dice-playing, jousting, tilting, and generous feasting formed part of their Christmas programme.
The accounts of their feasts include many dishes that are strange to us. Cranes were a favourite article of diet at aristocratic tables, and "dillegrout" was an important dish. This was made of chicken minced to a paste with "almond-milk," sugar, and spices. They drank hippocras, morat, mead, and claret or "clarre\" There were various wines mixed with honey and spices. The morat contained mulberries.
With all their grandeur, there was little comfort; the floors were strewn with rushes, the furniture stiff, hard, and giving little ease; at table, forks were yet unknown.
In the twelfth century miracle plays were introduced. They were full of anachronisms—Herod swears by Mahomet, and Noah's wife by Mary. To relieve the tedium, comic passages were introduced, and Cain appeared in the character of a low buffoon and the