The Hymns and Carols of Christmas


Source: Brand's Popular Antiquities Of Great Britain

W. Carew Hazlitt, Faith and Folklore: A Dictionary of National Beliefs, Superstitions and Popular Customs, Past and Current, With Their Classical and Foreign Analogues, Described and Illustrated.

Forming A New Edition of "The Popular Antiquities of Great Britain" By Brand and Ellis, Largely Extended, Corrected, Brought Down To The Present Time, and Now First Alphabetically Arranged.

In Two Volumes

London: Reeves and Turner, 1905.

Vol. 1, p. 296

The word "Hagment" is by some supposed of an antiquity prior to the introduction of the Christian Faith. On the Norman Hoquinanno Douce observes: "This comes nearer to our word, which was probably imported with the Normans. It was also by the French called Haguillennes and Haguimento, and I have likewise found it corrupted into Haguirenleux," (and he refers to Carpentier, Menage, and other authorites). He says also: "I am further informed that the words used upon this occasion are 'Hagmena, Hagmena, give us cakes and cheese, and let us go away.' Cheese and oaten-cakes, which are called farls, are distributed on this occasion among the cryers." Subjoined is all that appears to have survived of the Yorkshire Hagmena Song:

"To-night it is the New Year's night, tomorrow is the day,
And we are come for our right and for our ray,
As we used to do in old King Henry's Day:
Sing fellows, sing, hag-man, ha!
If you go to the bacon-flick cut me a good big;
Cut, and cut and low, beware of your maw.
Cut, and cut, and round, beware of your thumb,
That me and my merry men may have some:
Sing, fellows, sing, hag-man, ha!
If you go to the black ark, bring me ten mark;
Ten mark ten pound, throw it down upon the ground,
That me and my merry men may have some;
Sing, fellows, sing, hag-man, ha!

For the following lines, which the common people repeat upon this occasion, on New Year's Day, in some parts of France, I am indebted to M. Oliver:

"Aguilaneuf de cťans
On le voit a sa fenÍtre,
Avec son petit bonnet blanc
Il dit qu'il sere le Maitre,
Mettera le Pot au feu;
Donnez nou, ma bonne dame,
Donnez nous Aguilaneuf."

A writer in the "Gentlemen's Magazine" for July, 1790, tell us: "In Scotland, till very lately (if not in the present time), there was a custom of distribution sweet cakes and a particular kind of sugared bread, for several days before and after New Year; and on the last night of the old year (peculiarly called Hagmenai), the visitors and company made a point of not separating till after the clock struck twelve, when they rose, and, mutually kissing, wished each other a happy New Year. Children and others, for several nights, went about from house to house as guisarts, that is, disguised, or in masquerade dresses, singing:

"'Rise up, good wife, and be no swier
To deal your bread as long's your here,
The time will come when you'll be dead,
And neither want nor meal nor bread.'

"Some of those masquerades had a fiddle, and, when admitted into a house, entertained the company with a dramatic dialogue, partly extempore."

We read in the "Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence Displayed" that "it is ordinary among some plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year's Eve, crying Hagmena, a corrupted word from the Greek for holy month. John Dixon, holding forth against this custom once, in a sermon at Kelso, says: 'Sirs, do you know what Hagmane signifies? It is, the Devil be in the house! that's the meaning of its Hebrew original.'" Page 102. Comp. Tappy Tousie.

Editor's Note: I regret that I am unable to provide a translation of any French passages.

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