08 December 2011

Third Thursday before Christmas

At one time, it was customary for children to go out on each of the three Thursdays before Christmas, singing carols from door to door and wishing the occupants a happy New Year.  The occupants so serenaded rewarded the winter warblers with small gifts of fruit or money.   

Naturally, our old friend Naogeorgus complains:

Three weekes before the day whereon was borne the Lorde of Grace,
And on the Thursdays boyes and gyrles do runne in every place,
And bounce and beat at every doore, with blowes and lustie snaps,
And crie the Advent of the Lord, not borne as yet perhaps,
And wishing to the neighbours all, that in the houses dwell,
A happy year, and everything to spring and prosper well:
Here have they peares, and plumbs, and pence, each man gives willinglie,
For these three nightes are always thought unfortunate to bee:
Wherein they are afrayde of sprites, and cankred witches spight,
And dreadfull devils blacke and grim, that then have chiefest might.

[One gets the idea that nobody sang outside of his house.]

This first of three Thursdays was also a time for love divination.  To find the name of their future husband, the young ladies would take a number of onions and name each one for a man in whom she was interested.  They then set the onions near the chimney and waited to see which one would sprout first.  That one, of course, should point to the future intended.

In order to know the nature of this man, they went to the woodpile after the sun had set and while the stars were out, and (without looking) drew out a stick.  If it was straight and even, without knots, the future husband would be equally straight in body and mind, with a mild temper.  If, however, the stick was crooked and full of knots, the young lady could expect Mr. Crabbypants in her future.

And speaking of Mr. Crabbypants, ol’ Naogeorgus could not let this get by his vitriolic pen:

In these same dayes young, wanton gyrles that meete for marriage bee,
Doe search to know the names of them that shall their husbands bee.
Foure onions, five, or eight, they take, and make in every one
Such names as they do fansie most and best do thinke upon.
Thus neere the chimney them they set, and that same onyon than,
That first doth sproute, doth surely beare the name of their good man.

For this and the ceremony at the woodpile, as with everything of which he disapproved, he blamed the evil Papists:

Who rather had the people should obey their foolish lust,
Than truly God to know, and in him here alone to trust.

Yeah.  Papists just wanna have fun.