A Righte Merrie Christmasse - The Story of Christ-Tide
by John Ashton
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"Twelve fine large Table Cloths of Damask and Diaper. Twenty dozen of Napkins suitable, at the least. Three dozen of fair large Towells; whereof the Gentlemen Servers and Butlers of the House to have, every of them, one at meal times, during their attendance. Likewise to provide Carving Knives: Twenty dozen of white Cups and green Potts; a Carving Table; Torches; Bread; Beer, and Ale. And the chief of the Butlers was to give attendance on the highest Table in the Hall, with Wine, Ale, and Beer; and all the other Butlers to attend at the other Tables in like sort.

"The Cupboard of Plate is to remain in the Hall on Christmass day, St. Stephan's day, and New Year's day. Upon the Banquetting night it was removed into the Buttry; which, in all respects, was very laudably performed.

"The Office of the Constable Marshall to provide for his imployment, a fair gilt compleat Harneys, with a nest of Fethers in the Helm; a fair Poleaxe to bear in his hand, to be chevalrously ordered on Christmass day, and other days, as, afterwards, is shewed: touching the ordering and setling of all which ceremonies, during the said grand Christmass, a solempn consultation was held at their Parliament in this House, in form following:—

"First, at the Parliament kept in their Parliament Chamber of this House, on the even at night of St. Thomas the Apostle, Officers are to attend, according as they had been, long before that time, at a former Parliament named and elected to undergo several offices for this time of solempnity, honour, and pleasance: Of which Officers, these are the most eminent; namely the Steward, Marshall, Constable Marshall, Butler, and Master of the Game. These Officers are made known, and elected in Trinity Term next before; and to have knowledg thereof by Letters, if in the Country, to the end that they may prepare themselves against All Hallow-tide; that, if such nominated Officers happen to fail, others may then be chosen in their rooms. The other Officers are appointed at other times neerer Christmass day.

"If the Steward, or any of the said Officers named in Trinity Term, refuse, or fail, he, or they, were fined, every one, at the discretion of the Bench; and the Officers aforenamed agreed upon. And at such a Parliament, if it be fully resolved to proceed with such a grand Christmass, then the two youngest Butlers must light two Torches, and go before the Bench to the Upper end of the Hall; who, being set down, the ancientest Bencher delivereth a Speech, briefly to the whole society of gentlemen then present, touching their Consent, as afore; which ended, the eldest Butler is to publish all the Officers names, appointed in Parliament; and then in token of joy and good liking, the Bench and Company pass beneath the Harth, and sing a Carol, and so to Boyer (drink).

[Sidenote: Christmas Eve.]

"The Marshall at Dinner is to place at the highest Table's end, and next to the Library, all on one side thereof, the most ancient persons in the Company present: the Dean of the Chapell next to him; then an Antient, or Bencher, beneath him. At the other end of the Table, the Server, Cup-bearer and Carver. At the upper end of the Bench Table, the King's Serjeant and Chief Butler: and, when the Steward hath served in, and set on the Table, the first Mess, then he, also, is to sit down.

"Also, at the upper end of the other Table, on the other side of the Hall, are to be placed the three Masters of the Revells; and at the lower end of the Bench Table, are to sit, the King's Attorney, the Ranger of the Forest, and the Master of the Game. And, at the lower end of the Table, on the other side of the Hall, the fourth Master of the Revells, the Common Sergeant, and Constable Marshall. And, at the upper end of the Utter Barister's Table, the Marshall sitteth, when he hath served in the first Mess: The Clark of the Kitchin, also, and the Clark of the Sowce-tub, when they have done their offices in the Kitchin, sit down. And, at the upper end of the Clark's Table, the Lieutenant of the Tower, and the attendant to the Buttry are placed.

"At these two Tables last rehersed, the persons there, may sit on both sides of the Table: but, of the other three Tables, all are to sit upon one side. And then, the Butlers, or Christmas servants, are first to cover the Tables with fair linnen Table-Cloths; and furnish them with Salt-cellars, Napkins and Trenchers, and a Silver Spoon. And then, the Butlers of the House must place at the Salt-cellar, at every the said first three highest Tables, a stock of Trenchers, and Bread: and, at the other Tables, Bread only, without Trenchers.

"At the first Course the Minstrells must sound their Instruments, and go before; and the Steward and Marshall are, next, to follow together; and, after them, the Gentlemen Server; and, then, cometh the meat. Those three Officers are to make, altogether, three solempn Curtesies, at three several times, between the Skreen and the upper Table; beginning with the first, at the end of the Bencher's table; the second at the midst; and the third at the other end; and then, standing by, the Server performeth his Office.

"When the first Table is set and served, the Steward's Table is next to be served. After him, the Master's table of the Revells; then that of the Master of the Game, the High Constable-Marshall: Then the Lieutenant of the Tower; then the Utter Barister's table; and lastly, the Clerk's table. All which time the Musick must stand right above the Harthside, with the noise of their Musick, their faces direct towards the highest Table: and, that done, to return into the Buttry, with their Musick sounding.

"At the second course, every Table is to be served, as at the first Course, in every respect, which performed, the Servitors and Musicians are to resort to the place assigned them to dine at; which is the Valect's, or Yeoman's Table, beneath the Skreen. Dinner ended, the Musicians prepare to sing a Song, at the highest Table; which ceremony accomplished, then the Officers are to address themselves, every one in his office, to avoid the Tables in fair and decent manner, they beginning at the Clerk's Table; thence proceed to the next; and thence to all the others, till the highest Table be solempnly avoided.

"Then, after a little repose, the persons at the highest Table arise, and prepare to Revells: in which time, the Butlers and other Servitors with them, are to dine in the Library.

"At both the dores in the Hall, are Porters to view the Comers in and out at meal times: To each of them is allowed a Cast of Bread and a Candle nightly, after Supper.

"At night, before Supper, are Revells and Dancing; and so also after Supper, during the twelve days of Christmass. The antientest Master of the Revells is, after Dinner and Supper, to sing a Caroll, or Song; and command other Gentlemen then there present, to sing with him and the Company, and so it is very decently performed.

"A Repast at Dinner is viii^{d.}

[Sidenote: Christmass day.]

"Service in the Church ended, the Gentlemen presently repair into the Hall, to Breakfast, with Brawn, Mustard, and Malmsey.

"At Dinner, the Butler appointed for the grand Christmass, is to see the Tables covered and furnished: and the ordinary Butlers of the House are decently to set Bread, Napkins, and Trenchers in good form, at every Table; with Spoones and Knives.

"At the first Course is served in, a fair and large Bore's head, upon a Silver Platter, with Minstralsye. Two Gentlemen in Gownes are to attend at Supper, and to bear two fair Torches of Wax, next before the Musicians and Trumpeters, and stand above the Fire with the Musick, till the first Course be served in, through the Hall. Which performed, they, with the Musick, are to return to the Buttry. The like course is to be observed in all things, during the time of Christmass. The like at Supper.

"At Service time this Evening, the two youngest Butlers are to bear Torches in the Genealogia. A Repast at Dinner is xii^{d.} which Strangers of worth are admitted to take in the Hall; and such are to be placed at the discretion of the Marshall.

[Sidenote: St. Stephan's day.]

"The Butler appointed for Christmass is to see the Tables covered, and furnished with Salt-cellars, Napkins, Bread, Trenchers and Spoones. Young gentlemen of the House are to attend and serve till the latter Dinner, and then dine themselves.

"This day, the Server, Carver and Cup-bearer are to serve, as afore. After the first Course served in, the Constable Marshall cometh into the Hall, arrayed with a fair, rich, compleat Harneys, white and bright, and gilt; with a Nest of Fethers of all Colours upon his Crest or Helm, and a gilt Poleaxe in his hand: to whom is associate the Lieutenant of the Tower, armed with a fair white Armour, a Nest of Fethers in his Helm, and a like Poleaxe in his hand; and with them sixteen Trumpetters; four Drums and Fifes going in rank before them: and, with them, attendeth four men in white Harneys, from the middle upwards, and Halberds in their hands, bearing on their shoulders the Tower; which persons, with the Drums, Trumpets and Musick, go three times about the Fire. Then the Constable Marshall, after two or three Curtesies made, kneeleth down before the Lord Chancellor; behind him the Lieutenant; and they kneeling, the Constable Marshall pronounceth an Oration of a quarter of an hour's length, thereby declaring the purpose of his coming; and that his purpose is, to be admitted into his Lordship's service.

"The Lord Chancellor saith, He will take farther advice thereon.

"Then the Constable Marshall, standing up, in submissive manner, delivereth his naked Sword to the Steward, who giveth it to the Lord Chancellour: and, thereupon, the Lord Chancellour willeth the Marshall to place the Constable Marshall in his Seat; and so he doth, with the Lieutenant, also, in his Seat or Place. During this ceremony, the Tower is placed beneath the fire.

"Then cometh in the Master of the Game apparalled in green Velvet: and the Ranger of the Forest also, in a green suit of Satten; bearing in his hand a green Bow, and divers Arrows; with, either of them, a Hunting Horn about their Necks; blowing together three blasts of Venery, they pace round about the fire three times. Then the Master of the Game maketh three Curtesies, as aforesaid; and kneeleth down before the Lord Chancellour, declaring the cause of his coming, and desireth to be admitted into his service, &c. All this time, the Ranger of the Forest standeth directly behind him. Then the Master of the Game standeth up.

"This ceremony also performed, a Huntsman cometh into the Hall, with a Fox and a Purse-net; with a Cat, both bound at the end of a staff; and, with them, nine or ten Couple of Hounds, with the blowing of Hunting Hornes. And the Fox and Cat are, by the Hounds, set upon, and killed beneath the Fire. This sport finished, the Marshall placeth them in their several appointed places.

"Then proceedeth the second Course; which done, and served out, the Common Serjeant delivereth a plausible Speech to the Lord Chancellour, and his Company, at the highest Table, how necessary a thing it is to have Officers at this present; the Constable Marshall, and Master of the Game, for the better honour and reputation of the Common-Wealth; and wisheth them to be received, &c.

"Then the King's Serjeant at Law declareth and inferreth the necessity; which heard, the Lord Chancellour desireth respite of farther advice. Then the antientist of the Masters of the Revells singeth a Song, with assistance of others there present.

"At Supper, the Hall is to be served with all solempnity, as upon Christmass day, both the first and second Course to the highest Table. Supper ended, the Constable Marshall presenteth himself with Drums afore him, mounted upon a Scaffold, borne by four men; and goeth three times round about the Harthe, crying out aloud, A Lord, A Lord, &c. Then he descendeth and goeth to dance, &c., and, after, he calleth his Court, every one by name, one by one, in this Manner:—

"Sir Francis Flatterer, of FOWLESHURST, in the County of BUCKINGHAM.

Sir Randle Backbite, of RASCALL HALL, in the County of RAKE HELL.

Sir Morgan Mumchance, of MUCH MONKERY, in the County of MAD MOPERY.

Sir Bartholomew Baldbreech, of BUTTOCKSBURY, in the County of BREKE NECK.

"This done, the Lord of Misrule addresseth himself to the Banquet: which ended with some Minstralsye, mirth and dancing, every man departeth to rest.

"At every Mess is a pot of Wine allowed. Every Repast is vi^{d.}

[Sidenote: St. John's day.]

"About Seaven of the Clock in the Morning, the Lord of Misrule is abroad, and, if he lack any Officer or Attendant, he repaireth to their Chambers, and compelleth them to attend in person upon him after Service in the Church, to breakfast, with Brawn, Mustard and Malmsey. After Breakfast ended, his Lordship's power is in suspence, untill his personal presence at night; and then his power is most potent.

"At Dinner and Supper is observed the Diet and service performed on St. Stephan's day. After the second Course served in, the King's Serjeant, Oratour like, declareth the disorder of the Constable Marshall, and of the Common Serjeant; which complaint is answered by the Common Serjeant, who defendeth himself and the Constable Marshall with words of great efficacy: Hereto the King's Serjeant replyeth. They rejoyn &c., and whoso is found faulty, committed to the Tower &c.

"If any Officer be absent at Dinner or Supper Times; if it be complained of, he that sitteth in his place is adjudged to have like punishment, as the Officer should have had, being present: and then, withall, he is enjoyned to supply the Office of the true absent Officer, in all points. If any offendor escape from the Lieutenant, into the Buttery, and bring into the Hall a Manchet upon the point of a knife, he is pardoned. For the Buttry, in that case, is a Sanctuary. After Cheese served to the Table, not any is commanded to sing.

[Sidenote: Childermass day.]

"In the Morning, as afore, on Monday, the Hall is served; saving that the Server, Carver and Cup bearer do not attend any service. Also like Ceremony at Supper.

[Sidenote: Wednsday.]

"In the Morning no Breakfast at all; but like service as afore is mentioned, both at Dinner and Supper.

[Sidenote: Thursday.]

"At Breakfast, Brawn, Mustard and Malmsey. At Dinner, Roast Beef, Venison-Pasties, with like solempnities as afore. And at Supper, Mutton and Hens roasted.

[Sidenote: New Year's day.]

"In the Morning, Breakfast, as formerly. At Dinner like solempnity as on Christmass Eve.

"The Banquetting Night.

"It is proper to the Butler's Office to give warning to every House of Court, of this Banquet; to the end that they, and the Innes of Chancery be invited thereto, to see a Play and Mask. The Hall is to be furnished with Scaffolds to sit on, for Ladies to behold the Sports, on each side. Which ended, the Ladies are to be brought into the Library, unto the Banquet there; and a Table is to be covered and furnished with all Banquetting Dishes, for the Lord Chancellour, in the Hall; where he is to call to him the Ancients of other Houses, as many as may be on the one side of the Table. The Banquet is to be served in, by Gentlemen of the House.

"The Marshall and Steward are to come before the Lord Chancellour's Mess. The Butlers for Christmas must serve Wine; and the Butlers of the House, Beer and Ale &c. When the Banquet is ended, then cometh into the Hall, the Constable Marshall, fairly mounted on his Mule; and deviseth some sport, for passing away the rest of the night.

[Sidenote: Twelf Day.]

"At Breakfast, Brawn, Mustard and Malmsey, after Morning Prayer ended: And, at Dinner, the Hall is to be served as upon St. John's Day."


A riotous Lord of Misrule at the Temple—Stubbes on Lords of Misrule—The Bishops ditto—Mumming at Norwich, 1440—Dancing at the Inns of Court—Dancing at Christmas—The Cushion Dance.

The high spirits of the "Temple Sparks" occasionally led them to licence, as the author of The Reign of King Charles (1655) tells us was the case in 1627. "That Christmas the Temple Sparks had enstalled a Lieutenant, which we country folk call a Lord of Misrule. The Lieutenant had, on Twelfth eve, late in the night, sent out to collect his rents in Ramme Alley and Fleet Street, limiting five shillings to every house. At every door they winded their Temple horn, and if it procured not entrance at the second blast or summons, the word of command was then 'Give fire, gunner.' This gunner was a robustious Vulcan, and his engine a mighty smith's hammer. The next morning the Lord Mayor of London was made acquainted therewith, and promised to be with them next night; commanding all that ward, and also the watch, to attend him with their halberds. At the hour prefixt, the Lord Mayor and his train marched up in martial equipage to Ramme Alley.

"Out came the Lieutenant with his suit of Gallants, all armed in cuerpo. One of the Halberdiers bade the Lieutenant come to my Lord Mayor. 'No,' said the Lieutenant, 'let the Lord Mayor come to me.' But this controversy was soon ended, they advancing each to other, till they met half way; then one of the Halberdiers reproved the Lieutenant for standing covered before the Lord Mayor. The Lieutenant gave so crosse an answere, as it begat as crosse a blow; which, the Gentlemen, not brooking, began to lay about them; but in fine the Lieutenant was knockt down and sore wounded, and the Halberdiers had the better of the swords. The Lord Mayor being master of the field, took the Lieutenant, and haled rather than led him to the Counter, and with indignation thrust him in at the prison gate, where he lay till the Attorney General mediated for his enlargement, which the Lord Mayor granted upon condition he should submit and acknowledge his fault. The Lieutenant readily embraced the motion; and, the next day, performing the condition, so ended this Christmas Game."

We can hardly expect an unbiassed opinion on the subject of Lords of Misrule, or any other merriment, from Phillip Stubbes, the Puritan, who, in The Anatomie of Abuses (ed. 1583), speaking of these "Christmas Lords," says: "The name, indeed, is odious both to God and good men, and such as the very heathen people would have blushed at once to have named amongst them. And, if the name importeth some evil, then, what may the thing it selfe be, judge you? But, because you desire to know the manner of them, I will showe you as I have seen them practised myself.

"First, all the wilde-heds of the parish, conventing togither, chuse them a graund-captain (of all mischeefe) whom they innoble with the title of my Lord of Mis-rule, and him they crowne with great solemnitie, and adopt for their king. This king anointed chuseth forth twentie, fortie, three score, or a hundred lustie guttes, like to him self, to waight uppon his lordlie Majestie, and to guarde his noble person. Then, everie one of these his men, he investeth with his liveries of green, yellow, or some other light wanton colour; and, as though they were not gaudie enough, I should say, they bedecke them selves with scarfs, ribons and laces, hanged all over with golde rings, precious stones, and other jewels; this doon, they tye about either leg xx or xl bels, with rich handkerchiefs in their hands, and sometimes laid a crosse over their shoulders and necks, borrowed for the most parte of their pretie Mopsies and looving Besses, for bussing them in the dark.

"Thus, al things set in order, then have they their hobby horses, dragons and other antiques, togither with their baudie pipers and thundering drummers, to strike up the devil's daunce withall. Then marche these heathen company towards the church and church yard, their pipers piping, their drummers thundring, their stumps dauncing, their bels jyngling, their handkerchefs swinging about their heds like madmen, their hobbie horses and other monsters skirmishing amongst the route; and in this sorte they go to the church (I say), and into the church (though the minister be at praier, or preaching), dancing and swinging their handkercheifs over their heds in the church, like devils incarnate, with such a confuse noise, that no man can hear his own voice. Then, the foolish people, they looke, they stare, they laugh, they fleer, and mount upon fourmes and pewes, to see these goodly pageants solemnized in this sort. Then, after this, about the church they goe againe and again, and so foorth into the churchyard, where they have commonly their sommer haules, their bowers, arbors, and banqueting houses set up, wherin they feast, banquet and daunce al that day, and (peradventure) all the night too. And thus these terrestriall furies spend the Sabaoth day.

"They have, also, certain papers, wherein is painted some babblerie or other, of imagery woork, and these they call My Lord of Misrule's badges: these they give to every one that wil give money for them, to maintaine them in their heathenrie, devilrie, whordome, drunkennes, pride, and what not. And who will not be buxom to them, and give them money for these their devilish cognizances, they are mocked and flouted at not a little. And, so assotted are some, that they not only give them monie, to maintain their abhomination withall, but also weare their badges and cognizances in their hats and caps openly. But let them take heede; for these are the badges, seales, brands, and cognizances of the devil, whereby he knoweth his servants and clyents from the children of God; and so long as they weare them, Sub vexillo diaboli militant contra Dominum et legem suam: they fight under the banner and standerd of the Devil against Christ Jesus, and all his lawes. Another sorte of fantasticall fooles bring to these hel-hounds (the Lord of Mis-rule and his complices) some bread, some good ale, some new cheese, some olde, some custards and fine Cakes; some one thing, some another; but, if they knew that as often as they bring anything to the maintenance of these execrable pastimes, they offer sacrifice to the devil and Sathanas, they would repent and withdraw their hands, which God graunt they may!"

Although Stubbes wrote with exceeding bitterness and party bias, he had some warrant for his diatribe. In the Injunctions of Parkhurst, Bishop of Norwich[71] (1569), he says: "Item, that no person or persons calling themselves lords of misrule in the Christmas tyme, or other vnreuerent persons at any other tyme, presume to come into the church vnreuerently playing their lewd partes, with scoffing, iesting, or rebaldry talke, and, if any such haue alredy offended herein, to present them and their names to the ordinary."

[Footnote 71: Second Report of Ritual Comm., from which the examples following are also taken.]

Grindal, Archbishop of York, in his Injunctions (1571) also says: "Item, that the Minister and Churchwardens shall not suffer any lordes of misrule, or sommer lordes or ladies, or any disguised persons or others, in Christmas or ... at rish bearings, or any other times to come vnreuerently into any Church, or Chapell, or Churchyarde, and there daunce ... namely, in the time of diuine service, or of anie sermon." And so say Overton, Bishop of Lichfield (1584); Bancroft, Bishop of London (1601); and Howson, Bishop of Oxford (1619).

Merely to show how general throughout England were these Rulers of Christmas Festivities, I will give one more example, taken from the Records of Norwich, re what happened there at Christ-tide 1440. "John Hadman,[72] a wealthy citizen, made disport with his neighbours and friends, and was crowned King of Christmas. He rode in state through the City, dressed forth in silks and tinsel, and preceded by twelve persons habited as the twelve months of the year. After King Christmas followed Lent, clothed in white garments, trimmed with herring skins, on horseback, the horse being decorated with trappings of oyster shells, being indicative that sadness and a holy time should follow Christmas revelling. In this way they rode through the City, accompanied by numbers in various grotesque dresses, making disport and merriment; some clothed in armour, others, dressed as devils, chased the people, and sorely affrighted the women and children; others wearing skin dresses, and counterfeiting bears, wolves, lions, and other animals, and endeavouring to imitate the animals they represented, in roaring and raving, alarming the cowardly, and appalling the stoutest hearts."

[Footnote 72: Probably the John Gladman spoken of by Stubbes (see p. 127).]

Naturally, among the pastimes of this festive season dancing was not the least. And it was reckoned as a diversion for staid people. We know how—

The grave Lord Keeper led the braules, The mace and seals before him.

It was a practice for the bar to dance before the Judges at Lincoln's Inn at Christmas, and in James I.'s time the under barristers were, by decimation, put out of Commons, because they did not dance, as was their wont, according to the ancient custom of the Society.[73] This practice is also mentioned in a book published about 1730, called Round About our Coal Fire, etc. "The dancing and singing of the Benchers in the great Inns of Court at Christmas is, in some sort, founded upon interest, for they hold, as I am informed, some priviledge by dancing about the fire in the middle of their Hall, and singing the song of Round About our Coal Fire." In the prologue to the same book we have the following song:—

O you merry, merry Souls, Christmas is a coming, We shall have flowing bowls, Dancing, piping, drumming.

Delicate minced pies, To feast every virgin, Capon and goose likewise, Brawn, and a dish of sturgeon.

Then, for your Christmas box, Sweet plumb cakes and money, Delicate Holland smocks, Kisses sweet as honey.

Hey for the Christmas Ball, Where we shall be jolly, Coupling short and tall, Kate, Dick, Ralph, and Molly.

Then to the hop we'll go, Where we'll jig and caper, Cuckolds all a-row, Will shall pay the scraper.

Hodge shall dance with Prue, Keeping time with kisses, We'll have a jovial crew Of sweet smirking Misses.

[Footnote 73: Dugdale's Orig. Jurid. cap. 64.]

We still keep up the custom of dancing at Christ-tide, and no Christmas party is complete without it; but of all the old tunes, such as Sellinger's Rounds, the one mentioned in the above song, with many others, but one remains to us, and that is peculiar to this season—Sir Roger de Coverly.

Notes and Queries, 19th December 1885, gives an account of a very curious dance. "One of the most popular indoor games at Christmas time was, in Derbyshire, that of the 'Cushion Dance,' which was performed at most of the village gatherings and farm-house parties during the Christmas holidays upwards of forty years ago. The following is an account of the dance as it was known amongst the farmer's sons and daughters and the domestics, all of whom were on a pretty fair equality, very different from what prevails in farm-houses of to-day. The dance was performed with boisterous fun, quite unlike the game as played in higher circles, where the conditions and rules of procedure were of a more refined order.

"The company were seated round the room, a fiddler occupying a raised seat in a corner. When all were ready, two of the young men left the room, returning presently, one carrying a large square cushion, the other an ordinary drinking horn, china bowl, or silver tankard, according to the possessions of the family. The one carrying the cushion locked the door, putting the key in his pocket. Both gentlemen then went to the fiddler's corner, and, after the cushion-bearer had put a coin in the vessel carried by the other, the fiddler struck up a lively tune, to which the young men began to dance round the room, singing or reciting to the music:—

"'Frinkum, frankum is a fine song, An' we will dance it all along; All along and round about Till we find the pretty maid out.'

"After making the circuit of the room, they halted on reaching the fiddler's corner, and the cushion-bearer, still to the music of the fiddle, sang or recited:—

"'Our song it will no further go!'

"The Fiddler

"'Pray, kind sir, why say you so?'

"The Cushion-Bearer

"'Because Jane Sandars won't come to.'

"The Fiddler

"'She must come to, she shall come to, An' I'll make her, whether she will or no!'

"The cushion-bearer and vessel-holder then proceeded with the dance, going as before round the room, singing 'Frinkum, frankum,' etc., till the cushion-bearer came to the lady of his choice, before whom he paused, placed the cushion on the floor at her feet, and knelt upon it. The vessel-bearer then offered the cup to the lady, who put money in it, and knelt on the cushion in front of the kneeling gentleman. The pair kissed, arose, and the gentleman, first giving the cushion to the lady with a bow, placed himself behind her, taking hold of some portion of her dress. The cup-bearer fell in also, and they danced on to the fiddler's corner, and the ceremony was again gone through as at first, with the substitution of the name of John for Jane, thus:—

"The Lady

"'Our song it will no further go!'

"The Fiddler

"'Pray, kind Miss, why say you so?'

"The Lady

"'Because John Sandars won't come to.'

"The Fiddler

"'He must come to, he shall come to, An' I'll make him, whether he will or no.'

"The dancing then proceeded, and the lady, on reaching her choice (a gentleman, of necessity), placed the cushion at his feet. He put money in the horn and knelt. They kissed and rose, he taking the cushion and his place in front of the lady, heading the next dance round; the lady taking him by the coat tails, the first gentleman behind the lady, with the horn-bearer in the rear. In this way the dance went on till all present, alternately a lady and gentleman, had taken part in the ceremony. The dance concluded with a romp in file round the room, to the quickening music of the fiddler, who, at the close, received the whole of the money collected by the horn-bearer."


Honey Fairs—Card-playing at Christmas—Throwing the Hood—Early Religious Plays—Moralities—Story of a Gray's Inn Play—The first Pantomime—Spectacular Drama—George Barnwell—Story respecting this Play.

Time's Telescope (1824, p. 297) notes that in Cumberland, and in all the great towns in the north of England, about a week before Christmas, what are called Honey fairs were held, in which dancing forms the leading amusement.

Card-playing, too, was justifiable at Christ-tide. An ordinance for governing the household of the Duke of Clarence in the reign of Edward IV. forbade all games at dice, cards, or other hazard for money "except during the twelve days at Christmas." And, again, in the reign of Henry VII. an Act was passed against unlawful games, which expressly forbids artificers, labourers, servants, or apprentices to play at any such, except at Christmas, and at some of the colleges cards are introduced in the Combination Rooms during the twelve days of Christmas, but never appear there during the remainder of the year.

Cards are not much patronised by the present generation, yet dignity is occasionally sunk in a romping round game at Christ-tide. But it is a question as to who knows such games as My Lady Coventry, All Fours, Snip Snap Snorum, Old Maid, Commerce, Put, Pope Joan, Brag, Blind Hookey, Loo, etc., etc., without reference to a manual on the subject.

Timbs[74] gives a very curious custom or game which, he says, is still observed on Old Christmas day in the village of Haxey, in Lincolnshire. It is traditionally said to have originated from a lady of the De Mowbrays, who, a few years after the Conquest, was riding through Craize Lound, an adjoining hamlet, when the wind blew her riding hood from her head, and so amused her, that she left twelve acres of land to twelve men who ran after the hood, and gave them the strange name of Boggoners; to them, however, the land, with the exception of about a quarter of an acre, has for centuries been lost. The Throwing of the Hood now consists of the villagers of West Woodside and Haxey trying who can get to the nearest public-house in each place, the Hood, which is made of straw covered with leather, about two feet long and nine inches round. The twelve Boggoners are pitched against the multitude, which has been known to exceed two thousand persons from all parts of the neighbourhood; and as soon as a Boggoner touches the hood or catches it the game is won.

[Footnote 74: Garland for the Year, p. 151.]

There was another amusement at Christmas, before Mumming and the comparatively modern play of St. George—the Religious plays, the first of which is mentioned by Matthew Paris, who says that Geoffrey, a learned Norman, and Master of the school of the Abbey of Dunstable, composed the play of St. Catharine, which was acted by his scholars in 1110. Fitzstephen, writing later in the same century, remarks that "London, for its theatrical exhibitions has religious plays, either the representations of miracles wrought by holy confessors or the sufferings of martyrs." Then came the Interlude, which was generally founded on a single event, and was of moderate length, but not always, for in the reign of Henry IV. one was exhibited in Smithfield which lasted eight days; but then this began with the creation of the world, and contained the greater part of the Old and New Testament.

Being originally devised by the clergy to withdraw the minds of the people from the profane and immoral buffooneries to which they were accustomed, ecclesiastics did not hesitate to join in the performance, and even to permit the representation to take place in churches and chapels. Afterwards the ordering and arrangement of them fell into the hands of the gilds, or different trading companies.

In process of time the rigid religious simplicity of these performances was broken in upon, and the devil and a circle of infernal associates were introduced to relieve the performance, and to excite laughter by all sorts of strange noises and antics. By and by, abstract personifications, such as Truth, Justice, Mercy, etc., found their way into these plays, and they then became moral plays, or "Moralities." These were in their highest vogue in the reigns of Henries VII. and VIII., and Holinshed tells a story of one played at Christ-tide 1526-27.

"This Christmasse was a goodlie disguising plaied at Graies In, which was compiled for the most part by maister John Roo, sergeant at the law manie yeares past, and long before the cardinall had any authoritie. The effect of the plaie was that lord gouernance was ruled by dissipation and negligence, by whose misgouernance and evill order ladie publike weale was put from gouernance; which caused rumor populi, inwarde grudge and disdaine of wanton souereignetie to rise, with a great multitude, to expell negligence and dissipation, and to restore publike weale againe to hir estate, which was so doone.

"This plaie was so set foorth with riche and costlie apparell, with strange devises of Maskes and morrishes, that it was highlie praised of all men, sauing of the cardinall, which imagined that the play had been devised of him, and in a great furie sent for the said maister Roo, and took from him his coife, and sent him to the Fleet; and after, he sent for the yoong gentlemen that plaied in the plaie, and them highlie rebuked and threatned, and sent one of them, called Thomas Moile, of Kent, to the Fleet; but by means of friends, maister Roo and he were deliuered at last. This plaie sore displeased the cardinall, and yet it was neuer meant to him, as you haue heard. Wherfore manie wise men grudged to see him take it so hartilie, and euer the cardinall said that the king was highlie displeased with it, and spake nothing of himselfe."

J.P. Collier, in his Annals of the Stage (ed. 1879, pp. 68, 69), gives an account of two Interludes played before royalty at Richmond, Christ-tide 1514-15, which he found in a paper folded up in a roll in the Chapter House. "The Interlud was callyd the tryumpe of Love and Bewte, and yt was wryten and presented by Mayster Cornyshe and oothers of the Chappell of our soverayne lorde the Kynge, and the chyldern of the sayd Chapell. In the same, Venus and Bewte dyd tryumpe over al ther enemys, and tamyd a salvadge man and a lyon, that was made very rare and naturall, so as the Kynge was gretly plesyd therwyth, and gracyously gaf Mayster Cornysshe a ryche rewarde owt of his owne hand, to be dyvyded with the rest of his felows. Venus did synge a songe with Beawte, which was lykyd of al that harde yt, every staffe endyng after this sorte—

"Bowe you downe, and doo your dutye To Venus and the goddes Bewty: We tryumpe hye over all, Kyngs attend when we doo call.

"Inglyshe, and the oothers of the Kynges pleyers, after pleyed an Interluyt, whiche was wryten by Mayster Midwell, but yt was so long, yt was not lykyd: yt was of the fyndyng of Troth, who was caryed away by ygnoraunce and ypocresy. The foolys part was the best, but the kyng departyd befor the end to hys chambre."

Of Christ-tide Masques I have already written, and after they fell into desuetude there was nothing theatrical absolutely peculiar to Christmas until Rich, in 1717, introduced the comic pantomime at his theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where, on 26th December of that year, he produced Harlequin Executed. Davies says: "To retrieve the credit of his theatre, Rich created a species of dramatic composition, unknown to this, and I believe to any other country, which he called a pantomime; it consisted of two parts—one serious, and the other comic. By the help of gay scenes, fine habits, grand dances, appropriate music, and other decorations, he exhibited a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses, or some other fabulous writer. Between the pauses, or acts, of this serious, representation he interwove a comic fable; consisting chiefly of the courtship of Harlequin and Columbine, with a variety of surprizing adventures and tricks, which were produced by the magic wand of Harlequin; such as the sudden transformation of palaces and temples to huts and cottages, of men and women into wheelbarrows and joint stools, of trees turned into houses, colonades to beds of tulips, and mechanics' shops into serpents and ostriches." From 1717 until 1761, the date of his death, he brought out a succession of pantomimes, all of which were eminently successful, and ran at least forty or fifty nights each. That the pantomime, very slightly altered from Rich's first conception, still is attractive, speaks for itself.

No other style of entertainment for Christ-tide was ever so popular. Garrick tried spectacular drama, and failed. Walpole, writing to Lady Ossory, 30th December 1772, says: "Garrick has brought out what he calls a Christmas tale, adorned with the most beautiful scenes, next to those in the Opera at Paradise, designed by Loutherbourg. They have much ado to save the piece from being sent to the Devil. It is believed to be Garrick's own, and a new proof that it is possible to be the best actor and the worst author in the world, as Shakspeare was just the contrary." Some of us are old enough to remember with delight Planche's extravaganzas, The King of the Peacocks, etc., which were so beautifully put on the stage of the Lyceum Theatre by Madame Vestris, but I do not think they were a financial success, and they have never been repeated by other managers.

Up to a very recent date a stock piece at the minor theatres on Boxing Night was the tragedy of The London Merchant; or, The History of George Barnwell, acted at Drury Lane in 1731, which was so successful that the Queen sent for the MS. to read it, and Hone (Every-Day Book, ii. 1651) remarks as a notable circumstance that "the representation of this tragedy was omitted in the Christmas holidays of 1819 at both the theatres for the first time."

It was considered a highly moral play, and was acted for the particular benefit of apprentices, to deter them from the crime of theft, and from keeping company with bad women. David Ross, the actor, wrote in 1787 the following letter to a friend:—

"In the year 1752, during the Christmas holidays, I played George Barnwell, and the late Mrs. Pritchard played Millwood. Doctor Barrowby, physician to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, told me he was sent for by a young gentleman in Great St. Helen's, apprentice to a very capital merchant. He found him very ill with a slow fever, a heavy hammer pulse, that no medicine could touch. The nurse told him he sighed at times so very heavily that she was sure something lay heavy on his mind. The Doctor sent every one out of the room, and told his patient he was sure there was something that oppressed his mind, and lay so heavy on his spirits, that it would be in vain to order him medicine, unless he would open his mind freely. After much solicitation on the part of the Doctor, the youth confessed there was something lay heavy at his heart; but that he would sooner die than divulge it, as it must be his ruin if it was known. The Doctor assured him, if he would make him his confidant, he would, by every means in his power, serve him, and that his secret, if he desired it, should remain so to all the world, but to those who might be necessary to relieve him.

"After much conversation he told the Doctor he was the second son of a gentleman of good fortune in Hertfordshire; that he had made an improper acquaintance with a kept mistress of a captain of an Indiaman then abroad; that he was within a year of being out of his time, and had been intrusted with cash, drafts, and notes, which he had made free with, to the amount of two hundred pounds. That, going two or three nights before to Drury Lane to see Ross and Mrs. Pritchard in their characters of George Barnwell and Milwood, he was so forcibly struck, he had not enjoyed a moment's peace since, and wished to die, to avoid the shame he saw hanging over him. The Doctor asked where his father was? He replied he expected him there every minute, as he was sent for by his master upon his being taken so very ill. The Doctor desired the young man to make himself perfectly easy, as he would undertake his father should make all right; and, to get his patient in a promising way, assured him, if his father made the least hesitation, he should have the money of him.

"The father soon arrived. The Doctor took him into another room, and after explaining the whole cause of his son's illness, begged him to save the honour of his family and the life of his son. The father, with tears in his eyes, gave him a thousand thanks, said he would step to his banker and bring the money. While the father was gone Dr. Barrowby went to his patient, and told him everything would be settled in a few minutes to his ease and satisfaction; that his father was gone to his banker for the money, and would soon return with peace and forgiveness, and never mention or even think of it more. What is very extraordinary, the Doctor told me that, in a few minutes after he communicated this news to his patient, upon feeling of his pulse, without the help of any medicine, he was quite another creature. The father returned with notes to the amount of L200, which he put into his son's hands. They wept, kissed, embraced. The son soon recovered, and lived to be a very eminent merchant.

"Dr. Barrowby never told me the name; but the story he mentioned often in the green-room of Drury Lane Theatre; and after telling it one night when I was standing by, he said to me, 'You have done some good in your profession—more, perhaps, than many a clergyman who preached last Sunday,' for the patient told the Doctor the play raised such horror and contrition in his soul that he would, if it would please God to raise a friend to extricate him out of that distress, dedicate, the rest of his life to religion and virtue. Though I never knew his name or saw him, to my knowledge, I had, for nine or ten years, at my benefit a note sealed up, with ten guineas, and these words—'A tribute of gratitude from one who was highly obliged, and saved from ruin, by seeing Mr. Ross's performance of Barnwell.'"


Profusion of Food at Christ-tide—Old English Fare—Hospitality—Proclamations for People to spend Christ-tide at their Country Places—Roast Beef—Boar's Head—Boar's Head Carol—Custom at Queen's Coll. Oxon.—Brawn—Christmas Pie—Goose Pie—Plum Pudding—Plum Porridge—Anecdotes of Plum Pudding—Large one—Mince Pies—Hackin—Folk-lore—Gifts at Christ-tide—Yule Doughs—Cop-a-loaf—Snap-dragon.

If any exception can be taken to Christ-tide in England, it is to the enormous amount of flesh, fowl, etc., consumed. To a sensitive mind, the butchers' shops, gorged with the flesh of fat beeves, or the poulterers, with their hecatombs of turkeys, are repulsive, to say the least. It is the remains of a coarse barbarism, which shows but little signs of dying out. Profusion of food at this season is traditional, and has been handed down from generation to generation. A Christmas dinner must, if possible, be every one's portion, down to the pauper in the workhouse, and even the prisoner in the gaol. Tusser, who, though he could write—

At Christmas we banket, the riche with the poore, Who then (but the miser) but openeth his doore. At Christmas, of Christ, many Carols we sing; And give many gifts, for the joy of that King,

could also sing of "Christmas husbandly fare"—

Good husband and huswife, now chiefly be glad, Things handsome to have, as they ought to be had. They both do provide against Christmas do come, To welcome their neighbor, good chere to have some. Good bread and good drinke, a good fier in the hall, Brawne, pudding, and souse, and good mustard withall. Biefe, Mutton, and Porke, shred pies of the best, Pig, veale, goose, and capon, and Turkey well drest. Cheese, apples, and nuttes, ioly Carols to here, As then, in the countrey, is compted good chere. What cost to good husband is any of this? Good houshold provision, only, it is. Of other, the like I do leave out a meny, That costeth the husband man never a peny.

But his intention in this provision is not for personal gratification—

At Christmas, be mery, and thankfull withall, And feast thy poore neighbours, the great with y^{e} small. Yea, al the yere long, to the poore let us give, God's blessing to follow us while we do live.

This hospitality in the country was made the subject of legislation, for James I. much disliked the flocking of the gentry, etc., to London, as he said in his address to the council of the Star Chamber: "And therefore, as every fish lives in his own place, some in the fresh, some in the salt, some in the mud, so let every one live in his own place—some at Court, some in the city, some in the country; specially at festival times, as Christmas, and Easter, and the rest." Nay, he issued a proclamation ordering the landed gentry to repair to their country seats at Christmas, which is thus noticed in a letter from Mr. Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton (21st December 1622): "Diverse Lords and personages of quality have made means to be dispensed withall for going into the country this Christmas, according to the proclamation; but it will not be granted, so that they pack away on all sides for fear of the worst." And Charles I. inherited his father's opinions on this matter, for he also proclaimed that "every nobleman or gentleman, bishop, rector, or curate, unless he be in the service of the Court or Council, shall in forty days depart from the cities of London and Westminster, and resort to their several counties where they usually reside, and there keep their habitations and hospitality."

As to Christmas fare, place must be given, I think, to "The Roast Beef of Old England," which used to be a standing dish on every table—from the "Sir Loin," said to have been knighted by Charles II. when in a merry mood, to the "Baron of Beef," which is, like a "saddle" of mutton, two loins joined together by the backbone. This enormous dish is not within the range of ordinary mortals; but the Queen always keeps up the custom of having one wherever she may be, at Windsor, or Osborne. Beef may be said to be the staple flesh of England, and is procurable by every one except the very poorest, whilst it is not given to all to obtain the lordly boar's head, which used to be an indispensable adjunct to the Christmas feast. One thing is, that wild boars only exist in England either in zoological gardens or in a few parks—notably Windsor—in a semi-domesticated state. The bringing in the boar's head was conducted with great ceremony, as Holinshed tells us that in 1170, when Henry I. had his son crowned as joint-ruler with himself, "Upon the daie of coronation King Henrie, the father, served his sonne at the table, as server, bringing up the bore's head with trumpets before it, according to the maner."

In "Christmasse carolles, newely enprinted at Londō, in the fletestrete at the Sygne of the Sonne, by Wynkyn de Worde. The Yere of our lorde M.D.XXI.," is the following, which, from its being "newely enprinted," must have been older than the date given:—

A carol bringyng in the bores heed. Caput apri differo[75] Reddens laudes domino. The bores heed in hande bring I, With garlands gay and rosemary. I praye you all synge merely Qui estis in conuiuio. The bores heed I understande Is the chefe servyce in this lande Loke where euer it be fande[76] Servite cum cantico. Be gladde lordes bothe more and lasse,[77] For this hath ordeyned our stewarde To chere you all this Christmasse The bores heed with mustarde. Finis.

[Footnote 75: Defero.]

[Footnote 76: Found.]

[Footnote 77: Great and small.]

The custom of ceremoniously introducing the boar's head at Christ-tide was, at one time, of general use among the nobility, and still obtains at Queen's College, Oxford; and its raison d'etre is said to be that at some remote time a student of this College was walking in the neighbouring forest of Shotover (Chateau vert), and whilst reading Aristotle was attacked by a wild boar. Unarmed, he did not know how to defend himself; but as the beast rushed on him with open mouth he rammed the Aristotle down its throat, exclaiming, "Graecum est," which ended the boar's existence. Some little ceremony is still used when it is brought in; the head is decorated, as saith the carol, and it is borne into the hall on the shoulders of two College servants, followed by members of the College and the choir. The carol, which is a modification of the above, is generally sung by a Fellow, assisted by the choir, and the boar's head is solemnly deposited before the Provost, who, after helping those sitting at the high table, sends it round to all the other tables.

Dr. King, in his Art of Cookery, gives the following recipe for dishing up a boar's head:—

Then if you would send up the Brawner's head, Sweet rosemary and bays around it spread; His foaming tusks let some large pippin grace, Or midst these thundering spears an orange place. Sauce, like himself, offensive to its foes, The roguish mustard, dangerous to the nose. Sack, and the well-spic'd Hippocras the wine, Wassail the bowl with ancient ribbons fine, Porridge with plums, and turkies with the chine.

Of the boar's head was made brawn, which, when well made, is good indeed; and this was another Christmas dish. Sandys says: "The French do not seem to have been so well acquainted with brawn; for on the capture of Calais by them they found a large quantity, which they guessed to be some dainty, and tried every means of preparing it; in vain did they roast it, bake it, boil it; it was impracticable and impenetrable to their culinary arts. Its merits, however, being at length discovered, 'Ha!' said the monks, 'what delightful fish!' and immediately added it to their stock of fast day viands. The Jews, again, could not believe it was procured from that impure beast, the hog, and included in their list of clean animals."

Then there was a dish, "the Christmas pie," which must have been very peculiar, if we can trust Henri Misson, who was in England in the latter end of the seventeenth century. Says he: "Every Family against Christmass makes a famous Pye, which they call Christmass Pye: It is a great Nostrum the composition of this Pasty; it is a most learned Mixture of Neats-tongues, Chicken, Eggs, Sugar, Raisins, Lemon and Orange Peel, various kinds of Spicery, etc." Can this be the pie of which Herrick sang?—

Come, guard this night the Christmas pie, That the thiefe, though ne'r so slie, With his flesh hooks don't come nie To catch it; From him, who all alone sits there, Having his eyes still in his eare, And a deale of nightly feare, To watch it.

Fletcher, in his poem Christmas Day,[78] thus describes the pie:—

Christmas? give me my beads; the word implies A plot, by its ingredients, beef and pyes. The cloyster'd steaks, with salt and pepper, lye Like Nunnes with patches in a monastrie. Prophaneness in a conclave? Nay, much more Idolatrie in crust! Babylon's whore Rak'd from the grave, and bak'd by hanches, then Serv'd up in coffins to unholy men: Defil'd with superstition like the Gentiles Of old, that worship'd onions, roots, and lentils.

[Footnote 78: Ex Otio Negotium, etc., ed. 1656, p. 114.]

The Grub Street Journal of 27th December 1733 has an essay on Christmas Pye; but it is only a political satire, and not worth quoting here. There was once a famous Christmas pie which obtained the following notice in the Newcastle Chronicle, 6th January 1770: "Monday last, was brought from Howick to Berwick, to be shipp'd for London, for sir Hen. Grey, bart., a pie, the contents whereof are as follows: viz. 2 bushels of flour, 20 lbs. of butter, 4 geese, 2 turkies, 2 rabbits, 4 wild ducks, 2 woodcocks, 6 snipes, and 4 partridges, 2 neats' tongues, 2 curlews, 7 blackbirds, and 6 pigeons; it is supposed a very great curiosity, was made by Mrs. Dorothy Patterson, house keeper at Howick. It was near nine feet in circumference at bottom, weighs about twelve stones, will take two men to present it to table; it is neatly fitted with a case, and four small wheels to facilitate its use to every guest that inclines to partake of its contents at table."

Brand says that in the north of England a goose is always the chief ingredient in the composition of a Christmas pie. Ramsay, in his Elegy on Lucky Wood, tells us that, among other baits by which the good ale-wife drew customers to her house, she never failed to tempt them at Christmas with a Goose pie

Than ay at Yule whene'er we came, A bra' Goose Pye; And was na that a good Belly baum? Nane dare deny.

A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine (May 1811, p. 423), speaking of Christmas in the North Riding of Yorkshire, says: "On the feast of St. Stephen large goose pies are made, all 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 Day."

Plum pudding is a comparatively modern dish—not two centuries old; but, nowadays, wherever an Englishman travels—even when engaged in war—be he in any of our colonies, a plum pudding must be had. If an explorer, some loving hand has presented him with one. Were not our soldiers, in the latter part of the Crimean War, bountifully supplied with plum puddings? Was there ever a Christmas on board a man-of-war without one? It is now a national institution, and yet none can tell of its genesis. It has been evolved from that dish of which Misson gives us a description: "They also make a Sort of Soup with Plums, which is not at all inferior to the Pye, which is in their language call'd Plum porridge." We can find no reference to plum pudding in the diaries either of Evelyn or Pepys, and perhaps as early an instance as any of a Christmas plum pudding is in Round about our Coal Fire (1730?): "In Christmas holidays the tables were all spread from the first to the last; the sirloins of beef, the minced pies, the plum porridge, the capons, geese, turkeys, and plum puddings, were all brought upon the board."

Plum porridge is very frequently mentioned, and Brand gives an instance (vol. i. p. 296, note) of it being eaten in this century. "Memorandum. I dined at the Chaplain's Table at St. James's on Christmas Day 1801, and partook of the first thing served up and eaten on that festival at table, i.e. a tureen full of rich luscious plum porridge. I do not know that the custom is anywhere else retained." "Plum porridge was made of a very strong broth of shin of beef, to which was added crumb of bread, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, currants, raisins, and dates. It was boiled gently, and then further strengthened with a quart of canary and one of red port; and when served up, a little grape verjuice or juice of orange was popped in as a zest."—Daily Telegraph, 21st January 1890.

Plum pudding is a peculiarly English dish, and foreigners, as a rule, do not know how to make it properly, and many are the stories told thereanent. In a leading article in the Daily Telegraph, 21st January 1890, a recipe is given, copied from the Kreuz Zeitung, for making a plum pudding: "The cook is to take dough, beer in the course of fermentation, milk, brandy, whiskey, and gin in equal parts; bread, citronate, large and small raisins in profusion. This must be stirred by the whole family for at least three days, and it is then to be hung up in a linen bag for six weeks 'in order thoroughly to ferment.'"

There is a somewhat amusing story told in vol. i. of Anecdotes and Biographical Sketches by Lady Hawkins, widow of Sir John Hawkins, the friend of Johnson. Dr. Schomberg, of Reading, in the early part of his life spent a Christmas at Paris with some English friends. They were desirous to celebrate the season, in the manner of their own country, by having, as one dish on their table, an English plum pudding; but no cook was found equal to the task of making it. A clergyman of the party had, indeed, a receipt-book, but this did not sufficiently explain the process. Dr. Schomberg, however, supplied all that was wanting by throwing the recipe into the form of a prescription, and sending it to an apothecary to be made up. To prevent any chance of error, he directed that it should be boiled in a cloth, and sent home in the same cloth. At the specified hour it arrived, borne by the apothecary's assistant, and preceded by the apothecary himself, dressed according to the professional formality of the time, with a sword. Seeing, on his entry into the apartment, instead of signs of sickness, a table well filled, and surrounded by very merry faces, he perceived that he was made a party to a joke that turned on himself, and indignantly laid his hand on his sword; but an invitation to taste his own cookery appeased him, and all was well.

There is a good plum pudding story told of Lord Macartney when he was on his embassy to China, and wished to give gratification to a distinguished mandarin. He gave instructions to his Chinese chef, and, no doubt, they were carried out most conscientiously, but it came to table in a soup tureen, for my Lord had forgotten all about the cloth.

I cannot verify the following, nor do I know when it occurred. At Paignton Fair, near Exeter, a plum pudding of vast dimensions was drawn through the town amid great rejoicings. No wonder that a brewer's copper was needed for the boiling, seeing that the pudding contained 400 lbs. of flour, 170 lbs. of beef suet, 140 lbs. of raisins, and 240 eggs. This eight hundred pounder or so required continuous boiling from Saturday morning till the following Tuesday evening. It was finally placed on a car decorated with ribbons and evergreens, drawn through the streets by eight oxen, cut up, and distributed to the poor.

Every housewife has her own pet recipe for her Christmas pudding, of undoubted antiquity, none being later than that left as a precious legacy by grandmamma. Some housewives put a thimble, a ring, a piece of money, and a button, which will influence the future destinies of the recipients. It is good that every person in the family should take some part in its manufacture, even if only to stir it; and it should be brought to table hoarily sprinkled with powdered sugar, with a fine piece of berried holly stuck in it, and surrounded on all sides by blazing spirits.

Mince pie, as we have seen in Ben Jonson's masque, is one of the daughters of Father Christmas, but the mince pie of his day was not the same as ours; they were made of meat, and were called minched pies, or shrid pies. The meat might be either beef or mutton, but it was chopped fine, and mixed with plums and sugar. It is doubtful whether it was much known before the time of Elizabeth, although Shakespeare knew it well; but with poetic licence he makes it as known at the siege of Troy (Troilus and Cressida, Act i. sc. 2).

"Pandarus—Is not birth, beauty, good shape, discourse, manhood, learning, gentleness, virtue, youth, liberality, and such like, the spice and salt that season a man?

"Cressida—Ay, a minced man; and then to be baked with no date[79] in the pie,—for then the man's date's out."

[Footnote 79: Dates were an ingredient in most kinds of pastry. See All's Well that Ends Well, Act i. sc. 1—"Your date is better in your pie and your porridge than in your cheek."]

Gradually the meat was left out, and more sweets introduced, until the product resulted in the modern mince pie, in which, however, some housewives still introduce a little chopped meat. There is no luck for the wight who does not eat a mince pie at Christmas. If he eat one, he is sure of one happy month; but if he wants a happy twelve months, he should eat one on each of the twelve days of Christmas.

There was another form of eating the minced or shrid meat, in the form of a great sausage, called "the hackin," so called from to hack, or chop; and this, by custom, must be boiled before daybreak, or else the cook must pay the penalty of being taken by the arms by two young men, and by them run round the market-place till she is ashamed of her laziness.

A writer in Notes and Queries (5 ser. x. 514) gives a very peculiar superstition prevalent in Derbyshire: "A neighbour had killed his Christmas pig, and his wife, to show her respect, brought me a goodly plate of what is known as 'pig's fry.' The dish was delivered covered with a snowy cloth, with the strict injunction, 'Don't wash the plate, please!' Having asked why the plate was to be returned unwashed, the reply was made, 'If you wash the plate upon which the fry was brought to you, the pig won't take the salt.'"

A very pretty custom obtained, as we learn by the records of Evelyn's father's shrievalty. In those days of hospitality, when the hall of the great house was open to the neighbours during Christ-tide, they used to contribute some trifle towards the provisions; a list has been kept of this kindly help on this occasion. Two sides of venison, two half brawns, three pigs, ninety capons, five geese, six turkeys, four rabbits, eight partridges, two pullets, five sugar loaves, half pound nutmegs, one basket of apples and eggs, three baskets of apples, two baskets of pears.

At one time the bakers used to make and present to their customers two little images of dough, called Yule doughs, or doos, and it seems probable that these were meant to represent our Lord and His mother. At Alnwick, in Northumberland, a custom existed of giving sweetmeats to children at Christ-tide, called Yule Babies, in commemoration of our Saviour's nativity. There are various other cakes peculiar to this season. At Llantwit Major, Co. Glamorgan, they make "finger cakes"—or cakes in the form of a hand, on the back of which is a little bird; but what its symbolism is I know not. In some parts of Cornwall it is customary for each household to make a batch of currant cakes on Christmas eve. These cakes are made in the ordinary manner, and coloured with a decoction of saffron, as is the custom in those parts. On this occasion the peculiarity of the cakes is, that a small portion of the dough in the centre of the top of each is pulled up, and made into a form which resembles a very small cake on the top of a large one, and this centre-piece is specially called "The Christmas." Each person in the house has his or her special cake, and every one ought to taste a small piece of every other person's cake. Similar cakes are also bestowed on the hangers-on of the establishment, such as laundresses, sempstresses, charwomen, etc.

Another correspondent (Wiltshire) of Notes and Queries (6 ser. xii. 496) says: "Can any one tell me the origin of a cake called a cop-a-loaf or cop loaf? It was a piece of paste made in the shape of a box or casket, ornamented at the top with the head of a cock or dragon, with currants for eyes. It was always placed, in my young days, at the bedside on Christmas morning, and, it is scarcely necessary to say, eaten before breakfast. Inside was an apple." Brand says: "In Yorkshire (Cleveland) the children eat, at the present season, a kind of gingerbread, baked in large and thick cakes, or flat loaves, called Pepper Cakes. They are also usual at the birth of a child. One of these cakes is provided, and a cheese; the latter is on a large platter or dish, and the pepper cake upon it. The cutting of the Christmas cheese is done by the master of the house on Christmas Eve, and is a ceremony not to be lightly omitted. All comers to the house are invited to partake of the pepper cake and Christmas cheese."

Any notice of Christmas cheer would be incomplete without mention being made of Snap-dragon. It is an old sport, and is alluded to by Shakespeare in Henry IV., part ii. Act ii. sc. 4, where Falstaff says—

And drinks off candles' ends for flap-dragons.

And in Loves Labours Lost, Act v. sc. 1—

Thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.

It is a kind of game, in which brandy is poured over a large dish full of raisins, and then set alight. The object is to snatch the raisins out of the flame and devour them without burning oneself. This can be managed by sharply seizing them, and shutting the mouth at once. It is suggested that the name is derived from the German schnapps, spirit, and drache, dragon.


The First Carol—Anglo-Norman Carol—Fifteenth-Century Carol—"The Twelve Good Joys of Mary"—Other Carols—"A Virgin most Pure"—"Noel"—Festive Carol of Fifteenth Century—"A Christenmesse Carroll."

Bishop Jeremy Taylor very appropriately said that the first Christmas carol was sung by the angels at the Nativity of our Saviour—"GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD MEN." No man knows when the custom began of singing carols, or hymns on Christmas day in honour of the Nativity; but there can be no doubt that it was of very ancient date in the English Church, and that it has been an unbroken custom to this day, when the practice is decidedly on the increase, as may be judged from the many collections of ancient carols, and of modern ones as well. It would be impossible for me to give anything like a representative collection of Christmas carols, because of space, but I venture to reproduce a few old ones, and first, perhaps the oldest we have, an Anglo-Norman carol, which is in the British Museum, and with it I give Douce's very free translation. It will be seen by this that all carols were not of a religious kind, but many were songs appropriate to the festive season:—

Seignors ore entendez a nus, De loinz sumes venuz a wous, Pur quere Noel; Car lun nus dit que en cest hostel Soleit tenir sa feste anuel Ahi cest iur. Deu doint a tuz icels joie d'amurs Qi a DANZ NOEL ferunt honors.

Seignors io vus di por veir KE DANZ NOEL ne uelt aveir Si joie non: E replein sa maison De payn, de char, e de peison, Por faire honor. Deu doint, etc.

Seignors il est crie en lost Qe cil qui despent bien e tost, E largement; E fet les granz honors sovent Deu li duble quanque il despent Por faire honor. Deu doint, etc.

Seignors escriez les malveis, Car vus nel les troverez jameis De bone part; Botun, batun, ferun groinard, Car tot dis a le quer cunard Por faire honor. Deu doint, etc.

NOEL beyt bein li vin Engleis E li Gascoin e li Franceys E l'Angeuin; NOEL fait beivre son veisin, Si quil se dort, le chief en clin, Sovent le ior. Deu doint, etc.

Seignors io vus di par NOEL, E par li sires de cest hostel, Car benez ben: E io primes beurai le men, E pois apres chescon le soen, Par mon conseil. Si io vus di trestoz Wesseyl Dehaiz eil qui ne dirra Drincheyl.


Now, lordings, listen to our ditty, Strangers coming from afar; Let poor minstrels move your pity, Give us welcome, soothe our care: In this mansion, as they tell us, Christmas wassell keeps to-day; And, as the king of all good fellows, Reigns with uncontrouled sway.

Lordings, in these realms of pleasure, Father Christmas yearly dwells; Deals out joy with liberal measure, Gloomy sorrow soon dispels: Numerous guests, and viands dainty, Fill the hall and grace the board; Mirth and beauty, peace and plenty, Solid pleasures here afford.

Lordings, 'tis said the liberal mind, That on the needy much bestows, From Heav'n a sure reward shall find; From Heav'n, whence ev'ry blessing flows. Who largely gives with willing hand, Or quickly gives with willing heart, His fame shall spread throughout the land, His mem'ry thence shall ne'er depart.

Lordings, grant not your protection To a base unworthy crew, But cherish, with a kind affection, Men that are loyal, good, and true. Chase from your hospitable dwelling Swinish souls that ever crave; Virtue they can ne'er excel in, Gluttons never can be brave.

Lordings, Christmas loves good drinking. Wines of Gascoigne, France, Anjou, English ale that drives out thinking, Prince of liquors, old or new. Every neighbour shares the bowl, Drinks of the spicy liquor deep, Drinks his fill without controul, Till he drowns his care in sleep.

And now—by Christmas, jolly soul! By this mansion's generous sieur! By the wine, and by the bowl, And all the joys they both inspire! Here I'll drink a health to all: The glorious task shall first be mine: And ever may foul luck befall Him that to pledge me shall decline.


Hail, Father Christmas! hail to Thee! Honour'd ever shalt thou be! All the sweets that love bestows, Endless pleasures, wait on those Who, like vassals brave and true, Give to Christmas homage due.

Wynkyn de Worde first printed Christmas carols in 1521, but there were many MS. carols in existence before then. Here is a very pretty one from Mr. Wright's fifteenth-century MS.:—

To blys God bryng us al and sum. Christe, redemptor omnium.

In Bedlem, that fayer cyte, Was born a chyld that was so fre, Lord and prince of hey degre, Jam lucis orto sidere.

Jhesu, for the lowe of the, Chylder wer slayn grett plente In Bedlem, that fayer cyte, A solis ortus cardine.

As the sune schynyth in the glas, So Jhesu of hys moder borne was; Hym to serve God gyffe us grace, O Lux beata Trinitas.

Now is he oure Lord Jhesus; Thus hath he veryly vysyt us; Now to mak mery among us Exultet coelum laudibus.

The next carol I give has always been a popular favourite, and can be traced back to the fourteenth century, when it was called "Joyes Fyve." In Mr. Wright's fifteenth-century MS. it is "Off the Five Joyes of Our Lady." It afterwards became the "Seven Joys of Mary," and has expanded to


The first good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of One, To see her own Son Jesus To suck at her breast-bone. To suck at her breast-bone, good man, And blessed may he be, Both Father, Son and Holy Ghost, To all eternity.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Two, To see her own Son Jesus To make the lame to go. To make the lame, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Three, To see her own Son Jesus To make the blind to see. To make the blind to see, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Four, To see her own Son Jesus To read the Bible o'er. To read, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Five, To see her own Son Jesus To raise the dead alive. To raise, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Six, To see her own Son Jesus To wear the crucifix. To wear, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Seven, To see her own Son Jesus To wear the Crown of Heaven. To wear, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Eight, To see our blessed Saviour Turn darkness into light. Turn darkness, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Nine, To see our blessed Saviour Turn water into wine. Turn water, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Ten, To see our blessed Saviour Write without a pen. Write without, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Eleven, To see our blessed Saviour Shew the gates of Heaven. Shew the gates, etc.

The next good joy our Mary had, It was the joy of Twelve, To see our blessed Saviour Shut close the gates of Hell. Shut close, etc.

"On Christmas Day in the Morning" and "God rest You, Merry Gentlemen," are both very old and popular, the latter extremely so; in fact, it is the carol most known. The next example was first printed by the Rev. Arthur Bedford, who wrote many books and published sermons between 1705 and 1743, but his version began somewhat differently:—

A Virgin unspotted, the Prophets did tell, Should bring forth a Saviour, as now it befell.


A Virgin most pure, as the Prophets did tell, Hath brought forth a Baby, as it hath befell, To be our Redeemer from death, hell and Sin, Which Adam's transgression hath wrapped us in. Rejoice and be merry, set sorrow aside, Christ Jesus, our Saviour, was born on this tide.

In Bethlehem, a city in Jewry it was— Where Joseph and Mary together did pass, And there to be taxed, with many ane mo, For Caesar commanded the same should be so. Rejoice, etc.

But when they had entered the city so fair, A number of people so mighty was there, That Joseph and Mary, whose substance was small, Could get in the city no lodging at all. Rejoice, etc.

Then they were constrained in a stable to lie, Where oxen and asses they used to tie; Their lodging so simple, they held it no scorn, But against the next morning our Saviour was born. Rejoice, etc.

Then God sent an Angel from heaven so high, To certain poor shepherds in fields where they lie, And bid them no longer in sorrow to stay, Because that our Saviour was born on this day. Rejoice, etc.

Then presently after, the shepherds did spy A number of Angels appear in the sky, Who joyfully talked, and sweetly did sing, "To God be all Glory, our Heavenly King." Rejoice, etc.

Three certain Wise Princes they thought it most meet To lay their rich offerings at our Saviour's feet; So then they consented, and to Bethlehem did go, And when they came thither they found it was so. Rejoice, etc.

But all Christmas carols were not religious—many of them were of the most festive description; but here is one, temp. Henry VIII., which is a mixture of both:—

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Who is there, that singeth so, Noel, Noel, Noel?

I am here, Sir Christhismass, Welcome, my lord Christhismass, Welcome to all, both more and less. Come near, Noel.

Dieu vous garde, beau Sire, tidings I you bring, A maid hath born a Child full young, The which causeth for to sing, Noel.

Christ is now born of a pure maid, In an ox stall He is laid, Wherefore sing we all at a braid,[80] Noel.

Buvez bien par toute la compagnie, Make good cheer, and be right merry, And sing with us, now, joyfully, Noel.

[Footnote 80: Suddenly.]

Of the purely festive carols here is an example of the fifteenth century, from Mr. Wright's MS.:—

At the begynnyng of the mete Of a borejs hed 3e schal hete; And in the mustard 3e xal wete; And 3e xal syngyn, or 3e gon.

Wolcom be 3e that ben here, And 3e xal have ryth gud chere, And also a ryth gud face; And 3e xal syngyn, or 3e gon.

Welcum be 3e everychon, For 3e xal syngyn ryth anon; Hey 3ow fast that 3e had don, And 3e xal syngyn, or 3e gon.

The last I give is of the sixteenth century, and is in the British Museum (MS. Cott. Vesp. A. xxv.):—


A bonne, God wote! Stickes in my throate, Without I have a draught, Of cornie aile, Nappy and staile, My lyffe lyes in great wanste. Some ayle or beare, Gentell butlere, Some lycoure thou hus showe, Such as you mashe, Our throtes to washe The best were that you brew.

Saint, master and knight, That Saint Mault hight, Were prest between two stones; That swet humour Of his lycoure Would make us sing at once.

Mr. Wortley, I dar well say, I tell you as I thinke, Would not, I say, Byd hus this day, But that we shuld have drink.

His men so tall Walkes up his hall, With many a comly dishe; Of his good meat I cannot eate, Without a drink i-wysse. Now gyve hus drink, And let cat wynke, I tell you all at once, Yt stickes so sore, I may sing no more, Tyll I have dronken once.


Christmas Gifts forbidden in the City of London—Charles II. and Christmas Gifts—Christmas Tree—Asiatic Descent—Scandinavian Descent—Candles on the Tree—Early Notices of in England—Santa Claus—Krishkinkle—Curious Tenures of Land at Christmas.

The presentation of gifts on Christmas day was an English custom of very great antiquity; so great that, in 1419, the practice had become much corrupted, and the abuse had to be sternly repressed. Hence we find the following[81] "Regulation made that the Serjeants and other officers of the Mayor, Sheriffs, or City, shall not beg for Christmas gifts.

[Footnote 81: Corporation Letter-book, i. fol. 238.]

"Forasmuch as it is not becoming or agreeable to propriety that those who are in the service of reverend men, and from them, or through them, have the advantage of befitting food and raiment, as also of reward, or remuneration, in a competent degree, should, after a perverse custom, be begging aught of people, like paupers; and seeing that in times past, every year at the feast of our Lord's Nativity (25th December), according to a certain custom, which has grown to be an abuse, the vadlets of the Mayor, the Sheriffs and the Chamber of the said city—persons who have food, raiment, and appropriate advantages, resulting from their office,—under colour of asking for an oblation, have begged many sums of money of brewers, bakers, cooks, and other victuallers; and, in some instances, have, more than once, threatened wrongfully to do them an injury if they should refuse to give them something; and have frequently made promises to others that, in return for a present, they would pass over their unlawful doings in mute silence; to the great dishonour of their masters, and to the common loss of all the city: therefore, on Wednesday, the last day of April, in the 7th year of King Henry the Fifth, by William Sevenok, the Mayor, and the Aldermen of London, it was ordered and established that no vadlet, or other sergeant of the Mayor, Sheriffs, or City, should in future beg or require of any person, of any rank, degree, or condition whatsoever, any moneys, under colour of an oblation, or in any other way, on pain of losing his office."

Royalty was not above receiving presents on this day, and as, of course, such presents could not be of small value, it must have been no small tax on the nobility. Pepys (23rd February 1663) remarks: "This day I was told that my Lady Castlemaine hath all the King's Christmas presents, made him by the Peers, given to her, which is a most abominable thing." He records his own Christmas gifts (25th December 1667): "Being a fine, light, moonshine morning, home round the city, and stopped and dropped money at five or six places, which I was the willinger to do, it being Christmas day."

But the prettiest method of distributing Christmas gifts was reserved for comparatively modern times, in the Christmas tree. Anent this wonderful tree there are many speculations, one or two so curious that they deserve mention. It is said of a certain living Professor that he deduces everything from an Indian or Aryan descent; and there is a long and very learned article by Sir George Birdwood, C.S.I., in the Asiatic Quarterly Review (vol. i. pp. 19, 20), who endeavours to trace it to an eastern origin. He says: "Only during the past thirty or forty years has the custom become prevalent in England of employing the Christmas tree as an appropriate decoration, and a most delightful vehicle for showering down gifts upon the young, in connection with domestic and public popular celebrations of the joyous ecclesiastical Festival of the Nativity. It is said to have been introduced among us from Germany, where it is regarded as indigenous, and it is, probably, a survival of some observance connected with the pagan Saturnalia of the winter solstice, to supersede which, the Church, about the fifth century of our era, instituted Christmas day.

"It has, indeed, been explained as being derived from the ancient Egyptian practice of decking houses at the time of the winter solstice with branches of the date palm, the symbol of life triumphant over death, and therefore of perennial life in the renewal of each bounteous year; and the supporters of this suggestion point to the fact that pyramids of green paper, covered all over with wreaths and festoons of flowers, and strings of sweetmeats, and other presents for children, are often substituted in Germany for the Christmas Tree.

"But similar pyramids, together with similar trees, the latter, usually, altogether artificial, and often constructed of the costliest materials, even of gems and gold, are carried about at marriage ceremonies in India, and at many festivals, such as the Hoolee, or annual festival of the vernal equinox. These pyramids represent Mount Meru and the earth; and the trees, the Kalpadruma, or 'Tree of Ages,' and the fragrant Parajita, the tree of every perfect gift, which grew on the slopes of Mount Meru; and, in their enlarged sense, they symbolise the splendour of the outstretched heavens, as of a tree, laden with golden fruit, deep-rooted in the earth. Both pyramids and trees are also phallic emblems of life, individual, terrestrial, and celestial. Therefore, if a relationship exists between the Egyptian practice of decking houses at the winter solstice with branches of the date palm, and the German and English custom of using gift-bearing and brilliantly illuminated evergreen trees, which are, nearly always, firs, as a Christmas decoration, it is most probably due to collateral rather than to direct descent; and this is indicated by the Egyptians having regarded the date palm, not only as an emblem of immortality, but, also, of the starlit firmament."

Others attempt to trace the Christmas tree to the Scandinavian legend of the mystic tree Yggdrasil, which sprang from the centre of Mid-gard, and the summit of As-gard, with branches spreading out over the whole earth, and reaching above the highest heavens, whilst its three great roots go down into the lowest hell.

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