The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

St. Nicholas's Eve

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. 2, pp. 438-39

Henry Machyn, in his "Diary" under 1556, observes: "The v. day of Desember as Sant Necolas evyn, and Sant Necolas whentt a-brod in most partt in Londen syngyng after the olde fassyon, and was reseyvyd with mony good pepulle in-to ther howses, and had myche good chere as ever they had, in mony plasses."

Hospinian (who is followed by Naogeorgus and our Hone) tells us, that in many places it was the custom for parents, on the vigil of St. Nicholas, to convey secretly presents of various kinds to their little sons and daughters, who observed a fast en the occasion, and who were taught to believe that they owed them to the kindness of St. Nicholas and his train, who, going up and down among the towns and villages, came in at the windows, though they were shut, and distributed them. This custom, he says, originated from the legendary account of that Saintís having given portions to three daughters of a poor citizen, whose necessities had driven him to an intention of prostituting them, and this he effected by throwing a purse filled with money privately at night, in at the fatherís bedchamber window, to enable him to portion them out honestly.

"Saint Nicholas money used to give to maydens secretlie,
Who, that he still may use his wonted liberalitie,
The mothers all their children on the Eve do cause to fact,
And, when they every one at night in senselesse sleepe are cast,
Both Apples, Nuttes, and Peares they bring, and other things beside,
As caps, and shooes, and petticotes, which secretly they hide,
And in the morning found, they say, that this St. Nicholas brought:
Thus tender mindes to worship Saints and wicked things are taught."

The Popish Kingdorne, 1570.

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