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it was sung in his time; and according to Warton, with some alterations, it is still sung in Queen's College, Oxford.
A Carol bryngyng in the Bore's Head.
Caput Apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino.
Qui estis in conditio.
Servite cum Cantico.
For this hath ordayned our stewarde
Caput Apri defero
Numerous and often very ridiculous Christmas Carols still continue to be sung about the streets. The Bellman also in London usually delivers a very droll paper of verses, ornamented with woodcuts of the Holy Family, the Apostles, and many other Saints.
The manner of spending Christmas at Naples is thus detailed in a very amusing work lately published under the title of " Italy and the Italians in the Nineteenth Century:"
“ On Christmas Eve, the city of Naples resembles a town taken by storm. A quantity of rockets of various descriptions, some weighing above a pound, are thrown out. of the windows as a sign of rejoicing, to the great annoyance of the passengers. A continual noise is kept up in this manner till daybreak. Such irregularity in a civilised country is a matter of surprise to foreigners ; but the natives seem remarkably fond of boisterous diversions, and, at every festival of any particular saint, a considerable sum is laid out in fireworks."
Most Christian countries have peculiar Christmas ceremonies, which we have not room to enumerate.
A cotemporary writer, describing the decline of good old Christmas customs, humorously observes : venerable customs are becoming every year less common: the sending of presents also, from friends in the country to friends in town, at this once cheerful season, is, in a great measure, obsolete: 'nothing is to be had for nothing' now; and, without the customary bribe of a Barrel of Oysters, or a
basket of fish, we may look in vain for arrivals by the York Fly, or the Norwich Expedition :
* Few presents now to friends are sent,
, as we ought, the Bury coach?
Of Partridges and dainty Pheasants." Of the Christmas plays antiently performed at this season, some remains still exist in the West of England, particularly in Cornwall; but the representation of these dramatic exhibitions is almost wholly confined to children, or very young persons.
The reader will find much curious information respecting the antient Miracle Plays and Ceremonies at Christmas, in Mr. Hone's Antient Mysteries and Religious Shows, 8vo. London, 1823. His Notes, likewise, and Parallels from the Apocryphal New Testament, are exceedingly curious.
The impious Fête des Anes in Paris, during the Revolution, had nothing to do with our Feast of the Ass at this
Formerly the barons and knights generally kept open houses during this season, when their villains or vassals were entertained with bread, beef, and beer, and a pudding, Wastol Cake, or Christmas kitchel, and a groat in silver at parting ; being obliged to wave the full flagon round their heads, in honour of the master of the house. Plays were performed by the monks; the plot being, generally, the life of some Pope, or the founder of the abbey to which the monks belonged. Private exhibitions at the manors of the barons were usually family histories : minstrels, jesters, and mummers, composed the next class of performers, who were maintained in the castle of the baron, to entertain his family. Chaucer thus mentions them :
Doe comme, he saied, myn mynstrales,
Anon in mye armyage.
And eke of love longynge.
We shall finish our account of Christmas with an account of the Fête of the Ass, the aforesaid ceremony, which used to take place on this day :
The Ass's Festival was held in France for many centuries. A curious account of this religious ceremony was published in the year 1807 by M. Millin, a Member of the French Institute. It is taken from a manuscript missal belonging to the Cathedral of Sens, and details the impious and extravagant mummeries practised in that church on Christmas Day. Pierre Corbeil, the author, was Archbishop of Sens, and died in the year 1222.
On this festival of fölly a Bishop, or even a Pope, was elected for the occasion : the priests were besmeared with lees of wine, and they were masked or disguised in the most extravagant and ridiculous manner. On the eve of the day appointed to celebrate this festival, before the beginning of vespers, the clergy went in procession to the door of the cathedral, where were two choristers singing. Two canons were now deputed to fetch the Ass, and to conduct him to the table, which was the place where the Great Chanter sat, to read the order of the ceremonies, and the names of those who were to take any part in them. The moodish animal was clad with precious priestly ornaments, and, in this array, was solemnly conducted to the middle of the choir, during which procession, a hymn was sung in a major key, the first stanza of which is as follows:
Ilez ! Sire Ane, hez! After this, the office began by an anthem in the same style, sung purposely in the most discordant manner possible ; the office itself lasted the whole of the night, and part of the next day; it was a rhapsody of whatever was sung in the course of the year, at the appropriated festivals, forming altogether the strangest medley that can be conceived. As it was natural to suppose that the choristers and the congregation should feel thirst in so long a performance, wine was distributed in no sparing manner. The signal for that part of the ceremony was, an anthem commencing, Conductus ad poculum.
The first evening, after vespers, the Grand Chanter of Sens headed the jolly band in the streets, preceded by an enormous lantern. À vast theatre was prepared for their reception before the church, where they performed not the most decent interludes : the singing and dancing were con
cluded by throwing a pail of water on the head of the Grand Chanter. They then returned to church to begin the morning office; and, on that occasion, several received on their naked bodies a number of pails of water. At the respective divisions of the service, great care was taken to supply the Ass with drink and provender. In the middle of it, a signal was given by an anthem, Conductus ad ludos, and the Ass was conducted into the nave of the church, where the people mixed with the clergy, danced round him, and strove to imitate his braying. When the dancing was over, the Ass was brought back again into the choir, where the clergy terminated the festival.
The vespers of the second day concluded with an invitation to dinner, in the form of an anthem, like the rest, Conductus ad prandium, and the festival ended by a repetition of similar theatricals to those which had taken place the day before. This festival was not suppressed till towards the end of the sixteenth century.
December 26. St. Stephen. St. Dionysius Pope and
Confessor. St. Iarlath Bishop and Confessor in
St. Stephen was one of the seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to manage the public fund established for the relief of the poor, and to attend to minor ecclesiastical occupations. St. Stephen is called the protomartyr, or the first martyr or witness of the New Testament; for although St. John the Baptist was murdered on account of the testimony he bore concerning Christ, he died before the consummation of the Old Law. The adversaries of St. Stephen could not resist the wisdom with which he spoke; but having charged the Jews with the murder of Jesus Christ, he was stoned to death anno 33.
St. Stephen's Day.-Among the many superstitious practices which popular ignorance, aided by fanaticism, assigned to this day, may be reckoned the absurd custom of sweating and bleeding Horses, by galloping them violently and leaping them over fences, and afterwards by venesection. We find this 'custom noticed by Naogeorgus in his Regnum Papisticum, and cited by Hospinian de Origine Festorum Christianorum. The practice was professedly followed in order to prevent their having any disorders for the ensuing year.
Festo hoc quisque caballos
Adque fabros ductis mandant pertundere venam.
Accounts left by historians prove that this absurd practice was actually followed by people of all ranks, and to have laughed at it would, a few years ago, have been accounted a want of decent respect to religious customs. Tusser actually recommends it in his Husbandry :
Ere Christmas be passed, let Horse be let blood
If that do mislike thee, some other day use. According to Mr. Dance this is a very antient practice, and was introduced into Britain by the Danes. The reader may consult Wormii Fasti Danici, ii. 19.
Mr. Nicholls has also mentioned money paid " for letting oure Horses blede in Christmasse Weke.” See bis Illustrations of the Manners and Expenses of Antient Times.
According to a very old custom among the Finns, upon St. Stephen's Day, a piece of money or a bit of silver must be thrown into the trough out of which the Horses drink, by every one that wishes to prosper.
Hall, in his Triumphs of Rome, says: “on St. Stephen's Day blessings are implored upon pastures."
Goose Pies on St. Stephen's Day. – A Memoir on the manner in which the Inhabitants of the North Riding of Yorkshire celebrate Christmas, in the Gent. Mag. for May 1811, informs us that “ on the Feast of St. Stephen large Goose Pies are made, all of which they distribute among their needy neighbours, except one which is carefully laid up, and not tasted till the Purification of the Virgin called Candlemas.”
This is similar to a custom some people still follow from motives of piety, and the fear of diseases. They keep one Cross Bun all the year round, from Good Friday till its Anniversary, as a charm against the many crosses of life; and some actually persevere in eating its stale reliques at the stated time.