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Sunday Fortnight Before Easter Sunday

( Originally Published 1884 )

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. This is said, by an old author, to have taken its rise from the disciples plucking the ears of corn and rubbing them in their hands. Also Palm Sunday is said, by the same author, to have taken its name from the branches of palm trees strewed in the way as our Saviour entered Jerusalem. Branches of that tree are frequently worn as nosegays on that Sunday, when it falls so late in the year that the trees are in flower.

In the said county is used the following couplet on the six last names of Sundays in Lent :

"Tid, mid, miseray, Carling, palm, and good-paste day."

Of the first three names I have nowhere met any explanation. The last are explained above, except good-paste day, which seems borrowed from the Jewish rites of the Passover.

I have long threatened to trouble you with some of my grand-mother's saws, for what we catch in our youth we rarely lose. At the distance of nearly half a century the tag of many a monkish rhyme still rings in my ears.

Born and educated in a northern county of England, and therefore remote from the capital, their sayings and their customs, which still savour much of Popish superstition, are not to be wondered at.

In a former volume of this valuable work" you make mention of the Sunday fortnight before Easter being in Nottinghamshire called Careing Sunday :

" Careing Sunday, care away ;
Palm Sunday and Easter-day."

We have in Northumberland the following couplet, which gives name to every Sunday in Lent except the first :

" Tid, and Mid, and Misera, Carling, Palm, and Good-pas day."

What the three first mean, or whether they mean anything, some of your correspondents may inform us.

Pas-day is obviously an abbreviation of Pasque, the old French spelling for Easter. Pas-eggs are still, I am told, sent as presents for young folks in the Easter holidays. They are merely the eggs of our domestic fowl boiled, and tinged of various hues, by adding to the water, when boiling, logwood, rose leaves, the yellow blossoms of the whin, or furze, or other dyes, and are written on, figured, or ornamented, by an oiled pencil, or any greasy matter, drawn lightly over the shell before they are boiled, according to the boyish taste of the artist. A pecuniary present at this season has the same name given to it.

Of the more social customs still kept up in this county is this of the Sunday fortnight before Easter, feasting together on Carlings,* which are choice grey pease of the preceding autumn, steeped in spring water for 12 or 15 hours, till they are soaked or macerated, then laid on a sieve in the open air that they may be externally dry. Thus swelled, and enlarged to a considerable size, and on the verge of vegetating, they are put in an iron pot, or otherwise, on a slow fire, and kept stirring. They will then parch, crack, and, as we provincially call it, bristle; when they begin to burst they are ready to eat.

On this memorable Sunday the Carlings are everywhere regularly introduced, among the genteeler sort, after dinner, faire la bonne bouche to a glass of wine, as we would here a napkin of roasted chestnuts, to which they are no bad substitute, being in taste not exceedingly unlike them. While the honest peasant resorts to the best home-brewed, and there freely quaffs his Carling-groat in honour of the festival.

In answer to your correspondent (p. 188) who desires an explanation of

"Tid, and Mid, and Misera,
Carling, Palm, and Good-pas day."

Tide and tile are words in common use in the North of England, signifying soon or quickly; and tider, or tittes, sooner or nearer. " The tider you come, the tider you'll go " (proverb) probably a corruption of the hither. Td, then, in this instance means the first Sunday in the first line ; mid, the middle of the first three ; of misera I can only suppose it to be the first word in some office appropriated to that day in the missal. Grey pease are called Carlings in some counties ; but whether the pease were denominated after the festival, or the festival after the pease, remains to be proved. Carling, or Careing, may be derived from careful preserving and preparing the best pease for the purpose; or perhaps, Charing, or Charting, from parching the pease like charcoal ; or lastly, if (as is asserted) this feast was instituted to commemorate the plucking of ears of corn by the disciples, might it not be Earing Sunday ? an e and a c when written, being very frequently not distinguishable, and many mistakes have doubtless thus originated and continued undetected. Palm requires no explanation ; and Good-pas-day is obviously either an abbreviation of Pasque, Paschal, or Passover.

Vails (as it is commonly pronounced) I conceive to have been originally the Latin vale, as it is applied to farewell gifts to servants. R. P.

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