May 1st - All Saints' Day
( Originally Published 1884 )
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. Formerly, when the superior ranks of people were not too refined for these periodical meetings of jollity, white wine was frequently substituted for ale. To Lamb's-wool, apples and nuts are added as a necessary part of the entertainment, and the young folks amuse themselves with burning nuts in pairs on the bar of the grate, or among the warm embers, to which they give their name and that of their lovers, or those of their friends who are supposed to have such attachments, and from the manner of their burning and duration of the flame, etc., draw such inferences respecting the constancy or strength of their passions as usually promote mirth and good-humour.
I happened to reside last year near Chepstow, in Monmouthshire ; and there for the first time heard of Mothering Sunday. My enquiries into the origin and meaning of it were fruitless; but the practice thereabouts was for all servants and apprentices on Mid-lent Sunday to visit their parents, and make them a present of money, a trinket, or some nice eatable ; and they are all anxious not to fail in this custom.
There is an ancient custom in some parts of South Wales, which is, I believe, peculiar to that country, and still practised at the marriages of servants, trades folks, and little farmers. It is called a bidding, and is of real use. For before the wedding, an entertainment is provided, to which all the friends of each party are bid or invited, and to which none fail to bring or send some contributions, from a cow or a calf down to half a crown or a shilling. Nor can this be called absolutely a present, because an account of each is kept, and if the young couple do well, it is expected that they should give as much at any future bidding of their generous guests. I have frequently known of £50 being thus collected ; and have heard of a bidding which produced even a hundred, to a couple who were much beloved by their neighbours, and thereby enabled to begin the world with comfort. [See Gent. Mag. Library, " Manners and Customs."
To the letter of your correspondent D. A. B., April Magazine, p. 343, suffer me to add my testimony that Lamb's-wool (so called from the peculiar softness of the ingredients when mixed), is in constant use in Ireland on All-hallow Eve. It is composed of roasted apples bruised, and rendered fine by being forced through a sieve or search, and then well mixed with sugar and ale, or white wine; but with milk I have not seen it.