General Notes On Festivals
I HAVE been much entertained with the customs and manners of certain towns and villages in England, etc., mentioned in some of your former Magazines, and should be glad if some of your correspondents would inform us why most places in England have eggs and collops (slices of bacon) on Shrove Monday, pancakes on Tuesday, and fritters on the Wednesday, in the same week, for dinner.
Festivals Held Before The Reformation
Some of your readers will probably not be displeased at seeing a catalogue of the Festivals which were celebrated in the Church of England before the Reformation. A certain number of them are enumerated in the Calendar which is prefixed to the book of common prayer.
January 1st - New Year's Day
Almost every county in England has some amusement or local custom nearly peculiar to itself; and your deeming many of such not unworthy of being brought out to the public eye, has induced me to transmit to you an account of one or two, which I never saw any where except in Westmorland and Cumberland.
January 6th - Twelfth Day
Being twelfth-day, his majesty went to the chapel royal, with the usual solemnity, and offered gold, myrrh, and frankincense, in three purses, at the altar, according to ancient custom.Your anonymous correspondent, vol. H. p. 928, having said that he never heard of Lamb's-wool, or Christmas-eve, and cannot guess the meaning, I am induced to trouble you with the following attempt at an explanation of what was meant by the expression.
Feb. 2nd - Candlemas Day
Being Candlemas Day, there was a grand entertainment at the Temple Hall, for the Judges, Sergeants-at-law, etc. The Prince of Wales was there incog., the Lord Chancellor, Earl of Macclesfield, Bishop of Bangor, and several persons of quality.
Shrove Tuesday
Sir David Dalrymple, in his 'Annals of Scotland,' lately published, thinks it improbable, because inconsistent with the religious rigour of the times, that Margery, daughter of King Robert the First, in 1316, should take the diversion of hunting on a Shrove Tuesday. But Shrove Tuesday, as soon as the Shrift, or confession at Mattins, was celebrated, was a day of extraordinary festicity (sic) and indulgence.
February 14th - Valentine's Day
As the 14th of next month is a day anxiously looked for by the youth of both sexes, in the expectation of exercising their ingenuity in forming those amorous billets denominated 'Valentines,' I beg leave, through the channel of your Magazine, to offer a few suggestions to parents and guardians on the subject of these productions.
First Sunday In Lent
The Brandons were celebrated in many cities in France the first Sunday of Lent, round bonfires of straw, whence they had their name. They are now utterly abolished, with the rest, by royal authority, but were for a long time so rooted in the fancies of the people, all over the kingdom, that the bishops and magistrates strove to extirpate them in vain.
Whirlin Sunday (fifth In Lent)
At several villages in the vicinity of Wisbech, in the isle of Ely, the fifth Sunday in Lent has been, time immemorial, commemorated by the name of Whirlin Sunday, when cakes are made by almost every family, and from the day are called whirlin cakes ; but notwithstanding my frequent enquiries, I have not been able to discover the reason of this festival.
Simnel Sunday
Upon the marriage of the Prince of Wales, the ladies of Bury made a very large and excellent simnel cake, which they presented to their Royal Highnesses ; it was exhibited amongst the rest of the 'People's Gifts,' and their Royal Highnesses graciously acknowledged it.
March — Mothering Sunday
Scrutator observes that 'Mothering Sunday' is explained in Bailey's dictionary, 8 vo., where it is said that 'Mothering is a custom still retained in many places of England of visiting parents on Mid-Lent Sunday; and it seems to be called mothering from the respect in old time paid to the mother-church, it being the custom for people in popish times to visit their mother church on Mid-Lent Sunday, and to make their offerings at the high altar.'
Sunday Fortnight Before Easter Sunday
In your Magazine for last October your correspondent H. D. takes notice of a new appellation for the Sunday fortnight before Easter, viz., Careing Sunday. In Northumberland, that day is called Carling Sunday. The yeomanry in general steep peas, and afterwards parch them, and eat them on the afternoon of that day, calling them Carlings.
March 16th - Windy Saturday
Windy Saturday is one of the popular epochs which is frequently mentioned by natives of Scotland, and yet it is remarkable how very few of them have the least idea when that notable day occurred, or of any of the circumstances attending it.
Maunday Thursday
Being Maunday Thursday, Dr. Gilbert sub-almoner, wash'd the feet, and distributed alms to 49 (the king's years) poor people of both sexes. See the Ceremony, Gent. Mag., vol. i., p. 172. In addition to what has been mentioned by your correspondents concerning Maunday Thursday, you will please to inform them that it is a general practice of people of all ranks in the Roman Catholic countries to dress in their very best cloaths on that day.
Good Friday
Yesterday being Good Friday, the ancient dames of this place were especially careful to lay up a sufficient stock of Cross Buns (which will keep without growing mouldy !), as a panacea for all disorders during the succeeding twelve-month.This superstition is evidently the relic of a Roman Catholic practice.
Few perhaps of your antiquarian readers are ignorant of the old practice on Easter Sunday, of presenting coloured Eggs, called Pasche Eggs, or Paste Eggs. This custom, like most of those authorised by the Roman Church, is of considerable antiquity, but in England the usage seems at present to be confined to a very few spots in the northern counties.
April 1st - April's Fool Day
It is a matter of some difficulty to account for the expression, 'An April fool,' and the strange custom so universally prevalent throughout this kingdom, of people's making fools of one another on the 1st April, by trying to impose on each other, and sending one another, upon that day, upon frivolous, ridiculous, and absurd errands.
May 1st - All Saints' Day
I shall trouble you with a few remarks on Lanmb's wool, in addition to those of your correspondents in the last number of your excellent Magazine. I have often met with it in Ireland, where it is a constant ingredient at a merry-making on Holy Eve, or the evening before All Saints' Day ; and it is made there by bruising roasted apples and mixing them with ale, or sometimes with milk.
May 1st - May Day In Holmsdale, Surrey
This is the day of Nature's universal joy, when the sylvan deities dance upon the May-morn sunbeam, to the sweet music of the grove, and the gardens of the valley are clothed in a rich profusion of variegated blossoms. It is the festival of Love, where Harmony and Mirth present the gay garlands of Spring.
May 29th - Oak-apple Day
Being at a country-town on the 29th of May last, I was very much pleased to see the good old custom of putting up oaken boughs, to commemorate the restoration of monarchy in the last century, so well preserved. Never surely was there a time, when it was more necessary to pay attention to everything of this kind than the present.
July 15th — St. Swithin's Day
One of the most popular notions yet currently relied upon by the superstitious is, 'that when it rains on St. Swithin's holiday, we shall have a continuation of wet weather for forty days ;' and this conceit has received considerable encouragement, this year, from the coincidence of there having hitherto been a constant daily fall of heavy showers.
August 1st — Lammas
The reasons why the first day of August was denominated Lammas-day, and gule or yule of August, may perhaps be an entertainment for your readers.The first of August is called Lammas-day, some say because the priests were then wont to gather their tithe lambs ; others derive it from the Saxon word Leffmesse, i.e., bread mass; it being kept as a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the corn.
August 10th — St. Lawrence's Day
St. Lawrence's Day is the last of the Dog-days; consequently, when a labourer has been spent with the heat of the rest, he may be said to have finished his work, and received his wages, which ought to be high in proportion to his expence of strength.
December 25th — Christmas
Looking over your Magazine for December 1810, I find you have inserted a newly invented Game of Cards for a Winter's Amusement. The Christmas entertainments of the present day differ widely from those of old. Chatterton has given 'the Antiquity of Christmas Games,' which may amuse those of your Readers who are unacquainted with the Manners of our Ancestors, and with the writings of Chatterton.
Dec 30th - Jan 6th, Relick Sunday
The learned editor of the 'Antiquitates Vulgares' (Newcastle, 8vo, 1777) having omitted to say anything upon Relick Sunday, permit an occasional correspondent to lay a few observations upon the subject, together with some additions to his account of Easter, etc., before your numerous readers.
Superstitious Customs And Beliefs
IN my last communication, I presented you with some specimens of the delusions of the Church of Rome with regard to Demoniacism. I will now instance two other old superstitions, I. of the Devil creating storms of Thunder and Lightning, and the power of Saints, and Reliques of Saints, to appease the same; and 2. of treasures buried in the earth being guarded by evil spirits.
Manners, Etc., Of The Irish Peasantry
From the amorous disposition of these people's tempers, which breaks out upon all occasions, in an excess of aukward complaisance to their females (who are generally handsome, if not a little too masculine and indelicate in their limbs) may probably proceed the universal passion that prevails among them for poetry, music, and dancing, after their own rustic fashion.
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