The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

January 1 - New Years Day

William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 Vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827.

Volume 1

Circumcision. A close holiday at all public offices except the Excise, Customs, and Stamps.

This festival stands in the calendar of the church of England, as well as in that of the Roman catholic church. It is said to have been instituted about 487; it first appeared in the reformed English liturgy in 1550.

St. Fulgentius; St. Odilo, or Olou; St. Almachus, or Telemachus; St. Eugendus, or Oyend; St. Fanchea, or Faine; St. Mochua, or Moncain, alias Claunus; St. Mochua, alias Cronan, of Balla.

Sts. Mochua. According to Butler, these were Irish saints. One founded the monastery, now the town of Balla, in Connaught. The other is said to have founded 120 cells, and thirty churches, in one of which he passed thirty years, and died about the sixth century. Bishop Patrick in his “Reflexions upon the Devotions of the Roman Church,” 1674, 8vo. Cites of St. Mochua, that while walking and praying, and seeing the company of lambs running hastily to such their mothers, he drew a line upon the ground which none of the hungry lambs durst pass. Patrick again cites, that St. Mochua having been visited by St Kyenanus and fifteen of his clergy, they came to an imperuous and impassable river on their return, and wanted a boat; whereupon St. Mochua spread his mantle on the water, and Kyenanus with his fifteen priests were carried safely over the mantle, which floated back again to St. Mochua without wrinkle or wetting.

St. Fanchea, or Faine, is said by Butler to be an Irish saint of the sixth century. Patrick quotes that St. Endeus desiring to become a monk, his companions approached to dissuade him; but upon the prayers of St. Faine, and her making the sign of the cross, their feet stuck to the earth like immoveable stones, until by repentance they were loosed and went their way.

St. Fulgentius, according to Butler, died on the 1st of January, 533, sometimes went barefoot, never undressed to take rest, nor ate flesh meat, but chiefly lived on pulse and herbs, though when old he admitted the use of a little oil. He preached, explained mysteries, controverted with heretics, and built monasteries. Butler concludes by relating, that after his death, a bishop named Pontian was assured in a vision of Fulgentius's immoratality; that his relics were translated to Bourges, where they are venerated; and that the saint's head is in the church of the archbishop's seminary.


The King of Light, father of aged Time,
Hath brought about that day, which is the prime
To the slow gliding months, when every eye
Wears symptoms of a sober jollity;
And every hand is ready to present
Some service in a real compliment.
Whilst some in golden letters write their love,
Some speak affection by a ring or glove,
Or pins and points (for ev'n the peasant may
After his ruder fashion, be as gay
As the brisk courtly sir,) and thinks that he
Cannot, without a gross absurdity,
Be this day frugal, and nos spare his friend
Some gift, to show his love finds not an end
With the deceased year.

                        Poole's Eng. Parnassus.

In the volume of “Elia,” an excellent papers begins with “Every man hath two birthdays: two days, at least, in every years, which set him upon revolving the lapse of time, as it affects his mortal duration. The one that which is an especial manner he termed his. In the gradual desuetude of old observances, this custom of solemnizing our proper birthday hath nearly passed away, or is left to children, who reflect nothing at all about the matter, nor understand any thing beyond the cake and orange. But the birth of a new year is of an interest too wide to be pretermitted by king or cobbler. No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.

Of all sound of all bells — (bells, the music nighest bordering upon heaven) — most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the old year. I never hear it without a gathering-up on my mind to a concentration of all the images that have been diffused over the past twelvemonth; all I have done or suffered, performed, or neglected — in that regretted time. I begin to know its worth as when a person dies. It takes a personal colour; nor was it a poetical flight in a contemporary, when he exclaimed,

    'I saw the skirts of the departing year.'

The elders with whom I was brought up, were of a character not likely to let slip the sacred observance of any old institution; and the ringing out of the old year was kept by them with circumstances of peculiar ceremony. In those days the sound of those midnight chimes, though it seemed to raise hilarity in all around me, never failed to bring a train of pensive imagery into my fancy. Yet I then scarce conceived what it meant, or thought of it as a reckoning that concerned me. Not childhood alone, but the young man till thirty, never feels practically that he is mortal.”

Ringing out the old and ringing in the new year, with “a merry new year! A happy new year to you!' on new year's day, wee greetings that moved sceptred pride, and humble labour, to smiles and king feelings in former times; and why should they be unfashionable in our own?

Dr. Drake observes, in “Shakespeare and his Times,” that the ushering in of the new year, or new year's tide, with rejoicings, presents, and good wishes, was a custom observed, during the 16th century, with great regularity and parade, and was as cordially celebrated in the court of the prince as in the cottage of the peasant.

The Rev. T. D. Fosbroke, in his valuable “Encyclopedia of Antiquities,” adduces various authorities to show that congratulations, presents, and visits wee made by the Romans on this day. The origin, he says, is ascribed to Romulus and Tatius, and that the usual presents were figs and dates, covered with leaf-gold, and sent by clients to patrons, accompanied with a piece of money, which was expended to purchase the statues of deities. He mentions an amphora (a jar) which still exists, with an inscription denoting that it was a new year's present from the potters to their patroness. He also instances from Count Caylus a piece of Roman pottery, with an inscription wishing “a happy new year to you;” another, where a person wishes it to himself and his son; and three medallions, with the laurel leaf, fig, and date; one, of Commodus; another, of Victory; and a third, Janus, standing in a temple, with an inscription, wishing a happy new year to the emperor. New year's gifts were continued under the Roman emperors until they were prohibited by Claudius. Yet in the early ages of the church the Christian emperors received them; nor did they wholly cease, although contemned by ecclesiastical councils on account of the pagan ceremonies at their presentation.

The Druids were accustomed on certain days to cut the sacred misletoe with a golden knife, in a forest dedicated to the gods, and to distribute its branches with much ceremony as new year's gifts among the people.

The late Rev. John Brand, in his “Popular Antiquities” edited by Mr. Ellis observes from Bishop Stillingfleet, that among the Saxons of the North, the festival of the new year was observed with more than ordinary jollity and feasting, and by sending new year's gifts to one another. Mr. Fosbroke notices the continuation of the Roman practice during the middle ages; and that our kings, and the nobility especially, interchanged presents. Mr. Ellis quotes Matthew Paris, who appears to show that Henry III extorted new year's gifts; and he cites from a MS. Of the public revenue, anno 5, Edward VI. An entry of “rewards given on new year's day to the king's officers and servants in ordinary 155l. 5s., and to their servants that present the king's majestie with new year's gifts.” An orange stuck with cloves seems, by reference to Mr. Fosbroke and our early authors, to have been a popular new year's gift. Mr. Ellis suggests, that the use of this present may be ascertained from a remark by old Lupton, that the flavour of wine is improved, and the wine itself preserved from mouldiness, by an orange or lemon stuck with cloves being hung within the vessel so as not to touch the liquor.

Thomas Naogeorgus, in “The Popish Kingdome,” a Latin poem written in 1553, and Englished by Barnabe Googe, after remarking on days of the old year, urges this recollection:

The next to this is Newe yeares day
whereon to every frende,
They costly presents in do bring,
And Newe yeares giftes do send,
These gifts the husband gives his wife,
and father eke the childe,
And maister on his men bestowes
the like, with favour milde.

Honest old Latimer, instead of presenting Henry VIII. With a purse of gold, as was customary, for a new year's gift, put into the king's hand a New Testament, with a leaf conspicuously doubled down at Hebrews xiii. 4, which, on reference, will be found to have been worthy of all acceptation, though not perhaps well accepted. Dr. Drake is of opinion that the wardrobe and jewellery of queen Elizabeth were principally supported by these annual contributions on new year's day. He cites lists of the new year's gifts presented to her, from the original rolls published in her Progresses by Mr. Nichols; and from these it appears that the greatest part, if not all the peers and peeresses of the realm, all the bishops, the chief officers of state, and several of the queen's household servants, even down to her apothecaries, master cook, serjeant of the pastry, &c. gave new year's gifts to her majesty; consisting, in general, either of a sum of money, or jewels, trinkets, wearing apparel, &c. The largest sum given by any of the temporal lords was 20l.; but the archbishop of Canterbury gave 40l., the archbishop of York 30l. and the other spiritual lords 20l. and 10l.; many of the temporal lords and great officers, and most of the peeresses, gave rich gowns, petticoats, shifts, silk stockings, garters, sweet-bags, doublets, mantles embroidered with precious stones, looking-glasses, fans, bracelets, caskets studded with jewels, and other costly trinkets. Sir Gilbert Dethick, garter king at arms, gave a book of the States in William the Conqueror's time; Absolon, the master of the Savoy, gave a Bible covered with cloth of gold, garnished with silver gilt, and plates of the royal arms; the queen's physician presented her with a box of foreign sweetmeats; another physician presented a pot of green ginger, and a pot of orange flowers; her apothecaries gave her a box of lozenges, a box of ginger candy, a box of green ginger, and pots of other conserves. Mrs. Blanch a Parry gave her majesty a little gold comfit-box and spoon; Mrs. Morgan gave a box of cherries, and one of apricots. The queen's master cook and her serjeant of the pastry, presented her with various confectionary and preserves. Putrino, an Italian, gave her two pictures; Ambrose Lupo gave her a box of lute strings, and a glass of sweet water, each of three other Italians presented her with a pair of sweet gloves; a cutler gave her a meat knife having a fan haft of bone, with a conceit in it; Jeromy Bassano gave two drinking glasses; and Smyth, the dustman, presented her majesty with two bolts of cambrick. Some of these gifts to Elizabeth call to recollection the tempting articles which Autolycus, in the “Winter's Tale,” invites the country girls to buy: he enters singing,

Lawn, as white as driven snow;
Cypress, black as e'er was crow;
Gloves, as sweet damask roses
Masks for faces, and for noses;
Bugle bracelet, necklace-amber,
Perfume for a lady's chamber;
Golden quoifs, and stomachers,
For my lads to give their dears;
Pins, and poking-sticks of steel,
What maids lack from head to heel:
Come, buy of me, come: come buy, come buy;
Buy, lads, or else your lasses cry,
Come, buy, &c.

Dr. Drake says, that though Elizabeth made returns to the new year's gifts, in plate and other articles, yet she took sufficient care that the balance should be in her own favour.

No. 4982, in the Catalogue for 1824, or Mr. Rodd, of Great Newport-street, is a roll of vellum, ten feet long, containing the new year's gifts from king James I. To the persons whose names are therein mentioned on the 1st of January 1605, with the new year's gifts that his majesty received the same day; the roll is signed by James himself and certain officers of his household.

In a “Banquet of Jests, 1634,” 12 mo. There is a pleasant story of Archee, the king's jester, who, having fooled many, was fooled himself. Coming to a nobleman, upon new year's day, to bid him good-morrow, Archee received twenty pieces of gold,; but, covetously desiring more, he shook them in his hand, and said they were too light. The donor answered: “I prithee, Archee, let me see them again, for there is one amongst them I would be loth to part with:” Archee, expecting the sum to be increased, returned the pieces to his lordship; who put them in his pocket with this remark, “I once gave money into a fool's hand, who had not the wit to keep it.”

Pins were acceptable new year's gifts to the ladies, instead of the wooden skewers which they used till the end of the fifteenth century. Sometimes they received a composition in money: and hence allowances for their separate use is still denominated “pin-money.”

Gloves were customary new year's gifts. They were more expensive than in our times, and occasionally a money present was tendered instead: this was called “glove-money.” Sir Thomas More, as lord chancellor, decreed in favour of a Mrs. Croaker against the lord Arundel. On the following new year's day, in token of her gratitude, she presented sir Thomas with a pair of gloves, containing forty angels. “It would be against good manners,” said the chancellor, to forsake a gentlewoman's gift, and I accept the gloves; their lining you will be pleased otherwise to bestow.”

Mr. Brand relates from a curious MS. In the British Museum, of the date of 1560, that the boys of Eton school used on this day to play for little new year's gifts before and after supper; and also to make verses, which they presented to the provost and masters, and to each other: new year's gifts of verses, however, were not peculiar to schoolboys. A poet, the beauties of whose poetry are justly remarked to be “of a kind which time has a tendency rather to hallow than to injure,” Robert Herrick, presents us, in his Hesperides, with “a New Year's Gift sent to Sir Simon Stewart.” He commences it merrily, and goes on to call it

———————————————— a jolly
Verse, crown'd with ivy and with holly;
That tells of winter's tales and mirth,
That milk-m,aids make about the hearth;
Of Christmas sports, the wassail bowl,
That tost-up after fox-i' th' hole;
Of blind-man-buff, and of the care
That young men have to shoe the mare;
Of twelfth-tide cakes, of pease and beans,
Wherewith ye make those merry scenes;
Of crackling laurel, with fore-sounds
A plenteous harvest to your grounds
Of those, and such like things, for shift,
We send, instead of New Year's Gift.
Read then, and when your faces shine
With buxom meat and captring wine
Remember us in cups full crown'd
And let our city-health go round.
Then, as ye sit about your embers,
Call not to mind the fled Decembers
But think on these, that are t'appear
As daughters to the instant year;
And to the bagpipes all address
Till sleep take place of weariness.
And thus throughout, with Christmas plays,
Frolick the full twelve days.

Mr. Ellis, in a note on Brand, introduces a poetical new year's gift in Latin, from the stern Buchanan to the unhappy Mary of Scotland.

New year's gifts,” says Dr. Drake “were given and received, with the mutual expression of good wishes, and particularly that of a happy year. The complement was sometimes paid at each other's doors in the form of a song; but more generally, especially in the north of England and in Scotland, the house was entered very early in the morning, by some young men and maidens selected for the purpose, who presented the spiced bowl, and hailed you with the gratulations of the season.” To this may be added, that it was formerly the custom in Scotland to send new year's gifts on new year's eve; and on new year's day to wish each other a happy new year, and ask for a new year's gift. There is a citation in Brand, from the “Statistical Account of Scotland,”: concerning new year's gifts to servant maids by their masters; and it mentions that “there is a large stone, about nine or ten feet high, and our broad, placed upright in a plain, in the (Orkney) isle of North Ronaldshay; but no tradition is preserved concerning it, whether erected in memory of any signal event, or for the purpose of administering justice, or for religious worship. The writer of this (the parish priest) has seen fifty of the inhabitants assembled there, on the first day of the year, dancing by moonlight, with no other music than their own singing.”

In Mr. Stewart's “Popular Superstitions of the Highlands,” there is some account of the Candlemas bull, on new year's eve, as introductory to the new year. The term Candlemas, applied to this season, is supposed to have originated in some old religious ceremonies performed by candlelight. The Bull is a passing cloud, which Highland imagination perverts into the form of that animal; as it rises or falls or takes peculiar directions, of great significancy to the seers, so does it prognosticate good or bad weather. The more northern nations anciently assigned portentous qualities to the winds of new year's eve. One of their old legends in Brand may be thus versified – the last line eking out the verse:

If New Year's eve night-wind blow south,
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk, and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold, and storms there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit
If north-east, flee it man and brute.

Mr. Stewart says, that as soon as night sets in it is the signal with the Strathdown highlander for the suspension of his usual employment, and he directs his attention to more agreeable callings. The men form into bands with tethers and axes, and, shaping their course to the juniper bushes, they return home laden with mighty loads, which are arranged round the fire to-dry till morning. A certain discreet person is despatched to the dead and living ford to draw a pitcher of water in profound silence, without the vessel touching the ground, lest its virtue should be destroyed, and on his return all retire to rest. Early on new year's morning the Usque-Cashrichd, or water from the dead and living ford, is drank, as a potent charm, until next new year's day, against the spells of witchcraft, the malignity of evil eyes, and the activity of all infernal agency. The qualified highlander then takes a large brush, with which he profusely asperses the occupants of all beds; from whom it is nor unusual for him to receive ungrateful remonstrances against ablution. This ended, and the doors and windows being thoroughly closed, and all crevices stopped, he kindles piles of the collected juniper, in the different apartments, till the vapour from the burning branches condenses into opaque clouds, and coughing, sneezing, wheezing, gasping, and other demonstrations of suffocation ensure. The operator, aware that the more intense the “smuchdan,” the more propitious the solemnity, disregards these indications, and continues, with streaming eyes and averted head, to increase the fumigation, until in his own defence he admits the air to recover the exhausted household and himself. He then treats the horses, cattle, and other bestial stock in the town with the same smothering, to keep them from harm throughout the year. When the gude-wife gets up, and having ceased from coughing, has gained sufficient strength to reach the bottle dhu, she administers its comfort to the relief of the sufferers: laughter takes place of complaint, all the family gets up, wash their faces, and receive the visits of their neighbours, who arrive full of gratulations peculiar to the day. Mu nase choil orst, “My Candlemas bond upon you” is the customary salutation, and means, in plain words, “You owe me a new year's gift.” A point of great emulation is, who shall salute the other first; because the one who does so is entitled to a gift from the person saluted. Breakfast, consisting of all procurable luxuries, is then served, the neighbours not engaged are invited to partake, and the day ends in festivity.

Riding stang, a custom that will be observed on hereafter, prevails in some parts of England on new year's day to the present hour. The “stang” is a cowl-staff, which is a stout pole whereon the vessel hands. “Where's the cowl-staff?” cries Ford's wife, when she purposes to get Falstaff into a large buck-basket, with two handles; the cowl-staff, or “stang” is produced, and, being passed through the handles, the fat knight is borne off by two of Ford's men. A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1791, says, that in Westmoreland and Cumberland, on the 1st of January, multitudes assemble early in the morning with baskets and “stangs,” and whoever does not join them, whether inhabitant or stranger, is immediately mounted across the “stang,” and carried, shoulder-height, to the next public-house, where sixpence liberates the prisoner. Women are seized in this way, and carried in baskets – the sex being privileged from riding “stand,” in compliment, perhaps, to the use of side-saddles. In the same part of the country, no one is allowed to work on new year's day, however industrious. Mr. Ellis shows that it was a new year's day custom in ancient Rome for tradesmen to work a little only, for luck's sake, that they might have constant business all the year after.

A communication in an English journal of January 1824 relates, that in Paris on new year's day, which is called le jour d'étrennes, parents bestow portions on their children, brothers on their sisters, and husbands make presents to their wives. Carriages may be seen rolling through the streets with cargoes of bon-bons, souveniers and the variety of et cæteras with which little children and grown-up children are bribed into good humour; and here and there pastrycooks are to be met with, carrying upon boards enormous temples, pagodas, churches, and playhouses, made of fine flour and sugar, and the embellishments which render French pastry so inviting. But there is one street in Paris to which a new year's day is a whole year's fortune – this is the Rue des Lombardes, where the wholesale confectioners reside; for in Paris every trade and profession has its peculiar quarters. For several days preceding the 1st of January, this street is completely blocked up by carts and waggons laden with cases of sweetmeats for the provinces. These are of every form and description which the most singular fancy cold imagine; bunches of carrots, green peas, boots and shoes, lobsters and crabs, hats, books, musical instruments, gridirons, frying-pans, and saucepans; all made of sugar, and coloured to imitate reality, and all made with a hollow within to hold the bon-bons. The most prevailing device is what is called a cornet, that is, a little cone ornamented in different ways with a bag to draw over the large end, and close it up. In these things, the prices of which vary from one franc (tenpence) to fifty, the bon-bons are presented by those who choose to be at the expense of them, and by those who do not, they are only wrapped in a piece of paper; but bon-bons in some way or other must be presented. It would not, perhaps, be an exaggeration to state that the amount expended for presents on new year's day in Paris, for sweetmeats alone, exceeds 500,000 francs, or 20,000l. sterling. Jewellery is also sold to a very large amount, and the fancy articles exported in the first week in the year to England and other countries, is computed at one-fourth of the sale during the twelve months. In Paris it is by no means uncommon for a man of 8,000 or 10,000 francs a year to make presents on new year's day which cost him a fifteenth part of his income. No person able to give must on this day pay a visit empty-handed. Every body accepts, and every man gives according to the means which he possesses. Females alone are excepted from the charge of giving. A pretty woman, respectably connected, may reckon her new year's presents at something considerable. Gowns, jewellery, gloves, stockings, and artificial flowers, fill her drawing-room; for in Paris it is a custom to display all the gifts, in order to excite emulation, and to obtain as much as possible. At the palace the new year's day is a complete jour de fête. Every branch of the royal family is then expected to make handsome presents to the king. For the six months preceding January 1824, the female branches were busily occupied in preparing presents of their own manufacture, which would fill at least two common-sized waggons. The dutchess de Berri painted an entire room of japanned pannels, to be set up in the palace; and the duchess of Orleans prepared an elegant screen. An English gentlemen who was admittedly suddenly into the presence of the duchess de Berri two months before, found her, and three of her maids of honour, lying on the carpet, painting the legs of a set of chairs, which were intended for the king. The day commences with the Parisians, at an early hour, by the interchange of their visits and bon-bons. The nearest relations are visited first, until the furthest in blood have had their calls; then friends and acquaintances. The conflict to anticipate each other's calls, occasions the most agreeable and whimsical scenes among these proficients in polite attentions. In these visits, and in gossiping at the confectioners' shops, which are the great lounge for the occasion, the morning of new year's day is passed; a dinner is given by some member of the family to all the rest, and the evening concludes, like Christmas day, with cards, dancing, or any other amusement that may be preferred. One of the chief attractions to a foreigner in Paris is the exhibition, which opens there on new year's day, of the finest specimens of the Sevres china manufactured at the royal establishment in the neighbourhood of Versailles during the preceding year.

Undoubtedly, new year's gifts originated in heathen observances, and were grossly abused in after ages; yet laterly they became a rational and pleasant mode of conveying our gentle dispositions towards those we esteem. Mr. Audley, in his compendious and useful “Companion to the Almanack,” says, with truth, that they re innocent, if not praiseworthy; and he quotes this amiable sentiment from Bourne: “If I send a new year's gift to my friend, it shall be a token of my friendship; if to my benefactor, a token of my gratitude; if to the poor, which at this season must never be forgot, it shall be to make their hearts sing for joy, and give praise and adoration to the Giver of all good gifts.” The Jews on the first day of their new year give sumptuous entertainments, and joyfully wish each other “a happy new year.” This salutation is not yet obsolete even with us; but the new year's gift seldom arrives, except to honest rustics from their equals; it is scarcely remembered with a view to its use but by young persons, who, “unvexed with all the cares of gain,” have read or heard tell of such things, and who, with innocent hearts, feeling the kindness of the sentiment, keep up the good old custom among one another, till mixture with the world, and “long experience, makes them sage,” and sordid.

New year's day in London is not observed by any public festivity; but little social dining parties are frequently formed amongst friends; and convivial persons may be found at taverns, and in publicans' parlours, regaling on the occasion. Dr. Forster relates, in his “Perennial Calendar,” that many people make the point to wear some new clothes on this day, and esteem the omission as unlucky: the practice, however, from such motives, must obviously be confined to the uninformed. The only open demonstration of joy in the metropolis, is the ringing of merry peals from the belfries of the numerous steeples, late on the eve of the new year, and until after the chimes of the clock have sounded its last hour.

On new year's day the man of business opens new account-books. “A good beginning makes a good ending.” Let every an open an account to himself; and to begin the new year he may expect to say at its termination – it has been a good year. In the hilarity of the season let him not forget that to the needy it is a season of discomfort.

There is a satisfaction
In doing a good action:

and he who devises liberal things will find his liberality return to him in a full tide of happiness. An economist can afford to be generous. “Give me neither poverty nor riches,” prayed the wise man. To him who is neither encumbered by wealth, nor dispirited by indigence, the stories of enjoyment are unlocked.

He who holds fast the Golden Mean,
And lives contentedly between
The little and the great,
Feels not the wants that pinch the poor,
Nor plagues that haunt the rich man's door
Embitt'ring all his state.

The tallest pines feel most the pow'r
Of wintry blasts; the loftiest tow'r
Comes heavies to the ground;
The bolts that spare the mountain's side
His cloud-capt eminence divide
And spread the ruin round.

The well-inform'd philosopher
Rejoices with a wholesome fear,
And hopes, in spite of pain;
If Winter bellow from the North,
Soon the sweet Spring comes dancing forth
And Nature laughs again.

If hindrances obstruct thy way,
Thy magnanimity display,
And let thy strength be seen;
But oh! If fortune fill thy sail
With more than a propitious gale
Take half thy canvass in.



1308. On the 1st of January in this year, William Tell, the Swiss patriot, associated himself on this day with a band of his countrymen, against the tyranny of their oppressors. For upwards of three centuries the opposition was carried on, and terminated by the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, declaring the independence of Switzerland.

1651. On the 1st of January Charles II. was crowned at Scone king of the Scots. Charles, when a child. Was weak in the legs, and ordered to wear steel-boots. Their weight so annoyed him that he pined till recreation became labour. An old rocker took off the steel-boots, and concealed them; promising the countess of Dorset, who was Charles's governess, that she would take any blame for the act on herself. Soon afterwards the king, Charles I, coming into the nursery, and seeing his boy's legs without the boots, angrily demanded who had done it? “It was I, sir,” said the rocker, “who had the honour, some thirty years since, to attend on your highness, in your infancy, when you had the same infirmity wherewithout now the prince, your very own son is troubled; and then the lady Cary, (afterwards countess of Monmouth) commanded your steel-boots to be taken off, who, blessed be God, since have gathered strength, and arrived at a good stature.” Clare, chaplain to Charles II, at the time the affair happened, related this anecdote to old Fuller, who in 1660, contemplating “the restoration,” tells the story, and quaintly exclaims, “the nation is too noble, when his majesty shall return from foreign parts, to impose any other steel-boots upon him, than the observing the laws of the land, which are his own stockings, that so with joy and comfort he may enter on what was his own inheritance.” The nation forgot the “steel-boots,” and Charles forgot the “stockings.”

1801. January 1. The Union of Great Britain with Ireland commended according to the act of parliament, and the event was solemnized by the hoisting of a new royal flag on the Tower of London, accompanied by the firing of guns there and in St. James's Park. On the 3d the king received the great seal of Great Britain from the lord chancellor, and causing it to be defaced, presented to him a new great seal for the United Kingdom. On the same day, January 1st, 1801, Piazzi, the astronomer at Palermo, discovered a new primary planet, making an eleventh of that order: he called it Ceres, from the goddess of that name, who was highly esteemed by the ancients of Sicily.


Usually at this period the rigour of cold is severely felt. The indisposition of lie-a-beds to face its severity is pleasantly pictured by Mr. Leigh Hunt, in a paper in the Indicator. He images one of those persons to express himself in these terms:

On opening my eyes, the first thing that meets them is my own breath rolling forth, as if in the open air, like smoke out of a cottage-chimney. Think of this symptom. Then I turn my eyes sideways and see the window all frozen over. Think of that. Then the servant comes in. 'It is very cold this morning, is it not?' — 'Very cold, sir.' — 'Very cold indeed, isn't it?' — 'Very cold indeed, sir.' — 'More than usually so, isn't it, even for this weather?' (Here the servant's wit and good nature are put to a considerable test, and the inquirer lies on thorns for the answer.) 'Why, Sir .....I think it is.' (Good creature! There is not a better, or more truth-telling servant going.) 'I must rise, however — Get me some warm water.' — Here comes a fine interval between the departure of the servant and the arrival of the hot water; during which, of course, it is of 'no use' to get up. The hot water comes. 'Is it quite hot?' — 'Yes, sir.' — 'Perhaps too hot for shaving: I must wait a little?' — 'No, sir; it will just do.' (There is an over-nice propriety sometimes, an officious zeal of virtue, a little troublesome.) ' Oh — the shirt — you must air my clean shirt: — the linen gets very damp in this weather.' — 'Yes, sir.' Here is another delicious five minutes. A knock at the door. 'Oh, the shirt — very well. My stockings — I think the stockings had better be aired too.' — 'Very well, sir.' — Here another interval. At length every thing is ready, except myself. I now cannot help thinking a good deal — who can? — upon the unnecessary and villainous custom of shaving; it is a think so unmanly (here I nestle closer) — so effeminate, (here I recoil from an unlucky step into the colder part of the bed.) — No wonder, that the queen of France took part with the rebels against that degenerate king, her husband, who first affronted her smooth visage with a face like her own. The emperor Julian never showed the luxuriancy of his genius to better advantage than in reviving the flowing beard. Look at cardinal Bembo's picture — at Michael Angelo's — at Titian's — at Shakespeare's — at Fletcher's — at Spenser's — at Chaucer's — at Alfred's — at Plato's. I could name a great man for every tick of my watch. Look at the Turks, a grave and otiose people — Think of Haroun Al Raschid and Bed-ridden Hassan Think of Wortley Montague, the worthy son of his mother, a man above the prejudice of his time — Look at the Persian gentlemen, whom one is ashamed of meeting about the suburbs, their dress and appearance are so much finer than our own — Lastly, think of the razor itself — how totally opposed to every sensation of bed — how cold, how edgy, how hard! how utterly different from any think like the warm and circling amplitude, which

Sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.

Add to this, benumbed fingers, which may help you to cut yourself, a quivering body, a frozen towel, and an ewer full of ice; and he that says there is noting to oppose in all this, only shows, at any rate that he has no merit in opposing it.”


This engraving represents simple methods by which, at this season especially, the health of young persons may be maintained, and the constitution invigorated. Two round parallel bars at two feet distance from each other, on round standards three or four feet high, firmly fixed i the ground, will afford boys the means of actively exerting their limbs and muscles: and if the ends of a pole be let into opposite walls or fastened to trees, the boys may be taught to climb single ropes, and hold on while swinging by them. The engraving is placed before the eyes of parents and teachers with the hope of directing their attention to gymnastic exercises, as diversions for youth, and they are referred to a practical treatise on the subject by Mr. Clias, that may be safely used. His judicious reasoning must convince every reader of their importance to the rising generation, and that it is within the means of all classes of persons to let boys acquire a knowledge of the feats represented in the plates for his work, for teaching which his explanations are numerous and clear.


An unseasonable occurance in the cellar of the late sir Joseph Banks may be acceptable in the mention, and excite particular sympathy in persons who recreate with the juice of the vine: as a fact, it may tend to elucidate the origin and nature of vegetable fungi, particularly of that species termed mushroom. The worthy baronet had a cast of wine rather too sweet for immediate use; he therefore directed that it should be placed in a cellar, in order that the saccharine matter it contained might be more perfectly decomposed by age. At the end of three years, he directed his butler to ascertain the state of the wine, when, on attempting to open the cellar door, he could not effect it, in consequence of some powerful obstacle. The door was cut down, and the cellar found to be completely filled with a firm fungeous vegetable production — so firm that it was necessary to use the axe for its removal. This appeared to have grown from, or have been nourished by, the decomposed particles of the wine: the cask was empty, and carried up to the ceiling, where it was supported by the surface of the fungus.


At the close of this day he who can reflect with satisfaction on the past, may anticipate with calm delight the entrance of the new year, and lift his eyes to the living lustres of the firmament with grateful feelings. They shine out their prismatic colours through the cold thin air, keeping watch while man slumbers, or cheering him, who contemplate their fires, to purposes of virtue. In this season

—————— The night comes calmly forth,
Bringing sweet rest upon the wings of even.
The golden wain rolls round the silent north,
And earth is slumbering 'neath the smiles of heaven.


Volume 2

New Year's Day.

Referring for the “ New-year’s gifts,” the “Candlemas-bull,” and, various observances of our ancestors and ourselves, to the first volume of this work, wherein they are set forth “ in lively pourtraieture,” we stop a moment to peep into the “Mirror of the Months,” and inquire “Who can see a new year open upon him, without being better for the prospect — without making sundry wise reflections (for any reflections on this subject must be comparatively wise ones) on the step he is about to take towards the goal of his being? Every first of January that we arrive at, is an imaginary mile-stone on the turnpike track of human life; at once a resting place for thought and meditation, and a starting point for fresh exertion in the performance of our journey. The man who does not at least propose to himself to be better this year than he was last, most be either very good, or very had indeed! And only to propose to be better, is something; if nothing else, it is an acknowledgment of our need to be so, which is the first step towards amendment. But, in fact, to propose to oneself to do well, is in some sort to do well, positively ; for there is no such thing as a stationary point in human endeavours; he who is not worse to-day than he was yesterday, is better; and he who is not better, is worse.”

It is written, “Improve your time,” in the text-hand set of copies put before us when we were better taught to write than to understand what we wrote. How often these three words recurred at that period without their meaning being discovered! How often and how serviceably they have recurred since to some who have obeyed the injunction! How painful has reflection been to others, who recollecting it, preferred to suffer rather than to do!


The author of the paragraph quoted above, expresses forcible remembrance of his youthful pleasures on the coming in of the new year.— “Hail! to thee, January! — all hail! cold and wintry as thou art, if it be but in virtue of thy first day. The Day, as the French call it, par excellence, ‘Le jour de l’an.’ Come about me, all ye little schoolboys that have escaped from the unnatural thraldom of your taskwork — come crowding about me, with your untamed hearts shouting in your unmodulated voices, and your happy spirits dancing an untaught measure in your eyes! Come, and help me to speak the praises of new-year’s day your day! — one of the three which have, of late, become yours almost exclusively, and which have bettered you and have been bettered themselves, by the change. Christmay-day, which was; New-year’s day, which is; and Twelfth-day, which is to be; let us compel them all three into our presence — with a whisk of our imaginative wand convert them into one, as the conjurer does his three glittering balls — and then enjoy them all together, — with their dressings, and coachings, and visitings, and greetings, and gifts, and “many happy returns” —with their plum-puddings, and mince-pies, and twelfth- cakes, and neguses — with their forfeits, and fortune-tellings, and blindman’s-bluffs, and sittings up to supper — with their pantomimes, and panoramas, and new penknives, and pastrycooks’ shops—in short, with their endless round of ever new nothings, the absence of a relish for which is but ill supplied, in after life, by that feverish lingering and thirsting after excitement, which usurp without filling its place. Oh! that I might enjoy those nothings once again in fact, as I can in fancy! But I fear the wish is worse than an idle one; for it not only may not be, but it ought not to be. “We cannot have our cake and eat it too,” as the vulgar somewhat vulgarly, but not less shrewdly, express it. And this is as it should be; for if we could, it would neither be worth the eating nor the having.”1

The Wassail Bowl

Health, my lord king, the sweet Rowena said,
Health, cry'd the chieftain, to the Saxon maid;
Then gayly rose, and 'midst the concourse wide,
Kiss'd her hale lips, and plac'd her by his side:
At the soft scene such gentle thoughts abound,
That health and kisses 'mongst the guests went round;
From this the social custom took its rise,
We still retain, and must for ever prize.

Now, on New-year’s-day as on the previous eve, the wassail bowl is carried from door to door, with singing and merriment. In Devonshire,

A massy bowl, to deck the jovial day,
Flash’d from its ample round a sunlike ray.
Full many a cent’ry it shone forth to grace
The festive spirit of th’ Andarton race,
As, to the sons of sacred union dear,
It welcomed with lambs' wool the rising year.

Mr. Brand says, “It appears from Thomas de la Moore,2 and old Havillan,3 that was-haile and drinc—heil were the usual ancient phrases of quaffing among the English, and synonymous with the 'Come, here's to you,' and 'I'll pledge you,' of the present day.”

[See: Origin and contents of Lamb's-wool, according to Hone. See also Brand's Lamb's Wool and Wassail]


In the “Antiquarian Repertory,” a large assemblage of curious communications, published by Mr. Jeffery, of Pall-mall, in 4 vols. 4to. there is the following paper relating to an ancient carving represented in that work, from whence the above engraving is taken. The verses beneath it are a version of the old lines in Robert of Gloucester’s chronicle, by Mr. Jeffery’s correspondent.

For the Antiquarian Repertory.

In the parish of Berlen, near Snodland, in the county of Kent, are the vestiges of a very old mansion, known by the name of Groves. Being on the spot before the workmen began to pull down the front, I had the curiosity to examine its interior remains, when, amongst other things well worth observation, appeared in the large oak beam that supported the chimney-piece, a curious piece of carved work, of which the preceding is an exact copy. Its singularity induced me to set about an investigation, which, to my satisfaction, was not long without success. The large bowl in the middle is the figure of the old wassail-bowl, so much the delight of our hardy ancestors, who, on the vigil of the new year, never failed (says my author) to assemble round the glowing hearth with their cheerful neighbours, and then in the spicy wassell-bowl (which testifies the goodness of their hearts) drowned every former animosity — an example worthy modern imitation. Wassell, was the word; Wassell, every guest returned as he took the circling goblet from his friend, whilst song and civil mirth brought in the infant year. This annual custom, says Geoffrey of Monmouth, had its rise from Rouix, or Rowen, or as some will have it, Rowena, daughter of the Saxon Hengist; she, at the command of her father, who had invited the British king Voltigern to a banquet, came in the presence with a bowl of wine, and welcomed him in these words, Louerd king wass-heil; he in return, by the help of an interpreter, answered, Drinc heile; and, if we may credit Robert of Gloster,

Thomas De Le Moor, in his “Life of Edward the Second,” says partly the same as Robert of Gloster, and only adds, that Wass-haile and Drinc-hail were the usual phrases of quaffing amongst the earliest civilized inhabitants of this island.

The two birds upon the bowl did for some time put me to a stand, till meeting with a communicative person at Hobarrow, he assured me they were two hawks, as I soon plainly perceived by their bills and beaks, and were a rebus of the builder’s name. There was a string from the neck of one bird to the other, which, it is reasonable to conjecture, was to note that they must be joined together to show their signification; admitting this, they were to be red hawks. Upon inquiry, I found a Mr. Henry Hawks, the owner of a farm adjoining to Groves; he assured me, his father kept Grove farm about forty years since, and that it was built by one of their name, and had been in his family upwards of four hundred years, as appeared by an old lease in his possession.

The apple branches on each side of the bowl, I think, means no more than that they drank good cider at their Wassells. Saxon words at the extremities of the beam are already explained; and the mask carved brackets beneath correspond with such sort of work before the fourteenth century. T. N.


The following pleasant old song, inserted by Mr. Brand, from Ritson’s collection of “Ancient Songs,” was met with by the Editor of the Every-day Book, in 1819, at the printing-office of Mr. Rann, at Dudley, printed by him for the Wassailers of Staffordshire and Warwick-shire. It went formerly to the tune of “Gallants come away.

A Carroll For A Wassell-Bowl.

A jolly Wassel-Bowl,
    A Wassel of good ale,
Well fare the butler’s soul,
    That setteth this to sale
        Our jolly Wassel.

Good Dame, here at your door
    Our Wassel we begin,
We are all maidens poor,
    We pray now let us in,
        With our Wassel,

Our Wassel we do fill
    With apples and with spice,
Then grant us your good will
    To taste here once or twice
        Of our good Wassel

If any maidens be
    Here dwelling in this house,
They kindly will agree
    To take a full carouse
        Of our Wassail.

But here they let us stand
    All freezing in the cold;
Good master, give command,
    To enter and be bold,
        With our Wassel

Much joy into this hail
    With us is entered in,
Our master first of all,
    We hope will now begin,
        Of our Wassel

And after his good wife
    Our spiced bowl will try,
The Lord prolong your life,
    Good fortune we espy,
        For our Wassel.

Some bounty from your hands,
    Our Wassel to maintain
We’ll buy no house nor lands
    With that which we do gain,
        With our Wassel.

This is our merry night
    Of choosing King and Queen,
Then be it your delight
    That something may be seen
        In our Wassel.

It is a noble part
    To bear a liberal mind,
God bless our master’s heart,
    For here we comfort find,
        With our Wassel

And now we must be gone,
    To seek out more good cheer;
Where bounty will be shown,
    As we have found it here,
        With our Wassel.

Much joy betide them all,
    Our prayers shall be still,
We hope and ever shall,
    For this your great good will,
        To our Wassel.

From the “Wassail” we derive, perhaps, a feature by which we are distinguished. An Englishman eats no more than a Frenchman; but he makes yule-tide of all the year. In virtue of his forefathers, he is given to “strong drink.” He is a beer-drinker, an enjoyer of “fat ale;” a lover of the best London porter and double XX, and discontented unless he can get “stout.” He is a sitter withal. Put an Englishman “behind a pipe” and a full pot, and he will sit till he cannot stand. At first he is silent; but as his liquor gets towards the bottom, he inclines towards conversation; as he replenishes, his coldness thaws, and he is conversational; the oftener he calls to “fill again,” the more talkative he becomes; and when thoroughly liquefied, his loquacity is deluging. He is thus in public-house parlours: he is in parties somewhat higher, much the same. The business of dinner draws on the greater business of drinking, and the potations are strong and fiery; full-bodied port, hot sherry, and ardent spirits. This occupation consumes five or six hours, and Sometimes more, after dining. There is no rising from it, but to toss off the glass, and huzza after the “hip! hip! hip!” of the toast giver. A calculation of the number who customarily “dine out” in this manner half the week, would be very amusing, if it were illustrated by portraits of some of the indulgers. It might be further, and more usefully, though not so agreeably illustrated, by the reports of physicians, wives, and nurses, and the bills of apothecaries. Habitual sitting to drink is the “besetting sin” of Englishmen — the creator of their gout and palsy, the embitterer of their enjoyments, the impoverisher of their property, the widow-maker of their wives.

By continuing the “wassail” of our ancestors, we attempt to cultivate the body as they did; but we are other beings, cultivated in other ways, with faculties and powers of mind that would have astonished their generations, more than their robust frames, if they could appear, would astonish ours. Their employment was in hunting their forests for food, or battling in armour with risk of life and limb. They had no counting-houses, no ledgers, no commerce, no Christmas bills, no letter-writing, no printing, no engraving, no bending over the desk, no “wasting of the midnight oil” and the brain together, no financing, not a hundredth part of the relationships in society, nor of the cares that we have, who “wassail” as they did, and wonder we are not so strong as they were. There were no Popes nor Addisons in the days of Nimrod.

The most perfect fragment of the “wassail” exists in the usage of certain corporation festivals. The person presiding stands up at the close of dinner, and drinks from a flaggon usually of silver having a handle on each side, by which he holds it with each hand, and the toast-master announces him as drinking “the health of his brethren out of the ‘loving cup.’ The loving cup, which is the ancient wassail-bowl, is then passed to the guest on his left hand, and by him to his left-hand neighhour, and as it finds its way round the room to each guest in his turn, so each sands up and drinks to the president “out of the loving cup.”

The subsequent song is sung in Gloucestershire on New-year’s eve:—

Wassail! Wassail! over the town,
Our toast it is white, our ale it us brown:
Our bowl it is made of a maplin tree,
We be good fellows all; I drink to thee.

Here’s to *****,4 and to his right ear,
God send our maister a happy New Year;
A happy New Year as e’er he did see—
With my Wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here’s to *****5 and to his right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie:
A good Christmas pie as e’er I did see—
With my Wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here’s to Filpail,6 and her long tail,
God send our measter us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer; I pray you draw near.
And then you shall hear our jolly wassail.

Be here any maids, I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone
Sing hey O maids, come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house, let us all in.

Come, butler, come bring us a bowl of the best:
I hope your soul in heaven may rest:
But if you do bring us a bowl of the small,
Then down fall butler, bowl, and all.



Of this usage in Scotland, commencing on New-year’s eve, there was not room in the, last sheet of the former volume, to include the following interesting communication. It is, here, not out of place, because, in fact, the usage runs into the morning of the New Year.


To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.


The annexed account contains, I believe, the first notice of the acting in our Daft Days. I have put it hurriedly together, but, if of use, it is at your service.

I am, Sir, &c.

John Wood Reddock.

Falkirk, December, 1825.

During the early ages of christianity, when its promulgation among the barbarous Celts and Gauls had to contend with the many obstacles which their ignorance and superstition presented, it is very probable that the clergy, when they were unable entirely to abolish pagan rites, would endeavour, as far as possible, to twist them into something of a christian Cast; and of the turn which many heathen ceremonies thus received, abundant instances are afforded in the Romish church.

The performance of religious MYSTERIES, which continued for a long period, seems to have been accompanied with much licentiousness, and undoubtedly was grafted upon the stock of pagan observances. — it was discovered, however, that the purity of the christian religion could not tolerate them, and they were succeeded by the MORALITIES, the subjects of which were either historical, or some existing abuse, that it was wished to aim a blow at. Of this we have an interesting instance in an account given by sir William Eure, the envoy of Henry the Eighth to James the Fifth, in a letter to the lord privy seal of England, dated 26th of January 1540, on the performance of a play, or morality, written by the celebrated sir David Lindsay. It was entitled The Satire of the Three Estates, and was performed at Linlithgow, “before the king, queene, and the whole counsaill, spirituall and temporall,” on the feast of Epiphany. It gives a singular proof of the liberty then allowed, by king James and his Court witnessing the exhibition of a piece, in which the corruptions of the existing government and religion were treated with the most satirical severity.

The principal dramatis personæ were a king, a bushop, a burges man, “armed in harness, with a swerde drawn in his hande,” a poor man, and Experience, “clede like ane doctor.” The poor man (who seems to have represented the people) “looked at the king, and said he was not king in Scotland, for there was another king in Scotland that hanged Johne Armstrong with his fellows, Sym the [?]aird, and mony other mae.” He then makes ‘a long narracione of the oppression of the poor by the taking of the corse-preasaunte belts, and of the herrying of poor men by the consistorye lawe, and of mony other abusions of the spiritualitie and church. Then the bushop raised and rebuked him, and defended himself. Then the man of arms alleged the contrarie, and commanded the poor man to go on. The poor man proceeds with a long list of the bushop’s evil practices, the vices of cloisters, &c. This is proved by Experience, who, from a New Testament, showes the office of a bishop. The man of arms and burges approve of all that was said against the clergy, and allege the expediency of a reform, with the consent of parliament. The bushop dissents. The man of arms and burges said they were two and he but one, wherefore their voice should have the most effect. Thereafter the king in the play ratified, approved, and confirmed all that was rehearsed.”

None of the ancient religious observances, which have escaped, through the riot of time and barbarism, to our day, have occasioned more difficulty than that which forms the subject of these remarks. It is remarkable, that in all disputed etymological investigations, a number of words got as explanatory, are so provokingly improbable, that decision is tendered extremely difficult. With no term is this more the case, than hogmenay. So wide is the field of conjecture, as to the signification of this word, that we shall not occupy much space in attempting to settle which of the various etymologies is the most correct.

Many complaints were made to the Gallic synods of the great excesses committed on the last night of the year and first of January, by companies of both sexes dressed in fantastic habits, who ran about with their Christmas boxes, calling tire lire, and begging for the lady in the straw both money and wassels. The chief of these strollers was called Rollet Follet. They came into the churches during the vigils, and disturbed the devotions. A stop was put to this in 1598, at the representation of the bishop of Angres; but debarred from coming to the churches, they only became more licentious, and went about the country frightening the people in their houses, so that the legislature having interfered, an end was put to the practice in 1668.

The period during the continuance of these festivities corresponded exactly with the present daft days, which, indeed, is nearly a translation of their French name fêtes de fous. The cry used by the bachelettes during the sixteenth century has also a striking resemblance to the still common cry “hogmenay trololay—gi’us your white bread and nane o’ your grey,” it being “au gui menez, Rollet Follet, au gui menez, tiré liré, mainte du blanc et point du bis.”

The word Rollet is, perhaps, a corruption of the ancient Norman invocation of their hero, Rollo. Gui, however, seems to refer to the druidical custom of cutting branches from the mistletoe at the close of the year, which were deposited in the temples and houses with great ceremony.

A supposition has been founded upon the reference of this cry to the birth of our Saviour, and the arrival of the wise men from the east; of whom the general belief in the church of Rome is, that they were three in number. Thus the language, as borrowed from the French may be “homme est né, trois rois allois!” A man is born, three kings are come!

Others, fond of referring to the dark period of the Goths, imagine that this name had its origin there. Thus, minne was one of the cups drunk at the feast of Yule, as celebrated in the limits of hedenism, and ocl is the general term for festival. The night before Yule was called noggin-nott, or hogenat, signifying the slaughter night, and may have originated from the number of cattle slaughtered on that night, either as sacrifices, or in preparation for the feast on the following day. They worshipped the sun under the name Thor. Hence, the call for the celebration of their sacrifices would be “Hogg-minne! Thor! oel! Oel!” Remember your sacrifices, the feast of Thor! the feast!

That the truth lies among these various explanations, there appears no doubt; we however turn to hogmenay among ourselves, and although the mutilated legend which we have to notice remains but as a few scraps, it gives an idea of the existence of a custom which has many points of resemblance to that of France during the fêtes du fous. It has hitherto escaped the attention of Scottish antiquaries.

Every person knows the tenacious adherence of the Scottish peasantry to the tales and observances of auld lang syne. Towards the close of the year many superstitions are to this day strictly kept up among the country people, chiefly as connected with their cattle and crops. Their social feelings now get scope, and while one may rejoice that he has escaped difficulties and dangers during the past year, another looks forward with bright anticipation for better fortune in the year to come. The bannock of the oaten cake gave place a little to the currant loaf and bun, and the amories of every cottager have goodly store of dainties, invariably including a due proportion of Scotch drink. The countenances of all seem to say

Let mirth abound; let social cheer
Invest the dawnin’ o’ the year,
Let blithsome Innocence appear
                    To crown our joy,
Nor envy wi' sarcastic sneer,
                    Our bliss destroy.

When merry Yuleday comes, I trow
You’ll scantlings find a hungry mou;
Sma' are our cares, our stomacks fu’
                    O’ gusty gear
An kickahaws, strangers to our view
                    Sin’ fairnyear.

Then tho’ at odds wi’ a’ the wad,
Among oursels we’ll never quarrel
Though discard gie a canker’d marl
                    To spoil our glee,
As lang’s there pith into the barrel
                    We’ll drink and gree!”

                    Ferguson’s Daft Days.

It is deemed lucky to see the new moon with some money (silver) in the pocket. A similar idea is perhaps connected with the desire to enter the new year rife o roughness. The grand affair among the boys in the town is to provide themselves with fausse faces, or masks; and those with crooked horns and beards are in greatest demand. A high paper cap, with one of their great grandfather’s antique Coats, then equips them as a guisard — they thus go about the shops seeking their hogmenay. In the carses and moor lands, however, parties of guisards have long kept up the practice in great style. Fantastically dressed, and each having his character allotted him, they go through the farm houses, and unless denied entrance by being told that the old style is kept, perform what must once have been a connected dramatic piece. We have heard various editions of this, but the substance of it is something like the following:—

One enters first to speak the prologue in the style of the Chester mysteries, called the Whitsun plays, and which appear to have been performed during the mayoralty of John Arneway, who filled that office in Chester from 1268 to 1276. It is usually in these words at present—

Rise up gudewife and shake your feathers
Dinna think that we’re beggars,
We are bairns com’d to play
And for to seek our hogmenay;
Redd up stocks, redd up stools,
Here comes in a pack o’ fools.7
Muckle head and little wit stand behint the door,
But sic a set as we are, ne’er were here before.

One with a sword, who corresponds with the Rollet, now enters and says:

Here comes in the great king of Macedon,
Who has conquer’d all the world but Scotland alone.
When I came to Scotland my heart grew so cold
To see a little nation so stout and so bold,
So stout and so bold, so frank and so free!
Call upon Galgacus to fight wi’ me

If national partiality does not deceive us, we think this speech points out the origin of the story to be the Roman invasion under Agricola, and the name of Galgacus (although Galacheus and Sain Lawrence are sometimes substituted, but most probably as corruptions) makes the famous struggle for freedom by the Scots under that leader, in the battle fought at the foot of the Grampians, the subject of this historical drama.

Enter Galgacus.

Here comes in Galgacus—wha doesna fear my name
Sword arid buckler by my side, I hope to win the game!

They close in a sword fight, and in the “hash smash” the chief is victorious. He says:

Down Jack! down to the ground you must go—
Oh O! what’s this I’ve done?
I’ve killed my brother Jack, my father's only son!

Call upon the doctor.

Enter Doctor (saying)

    Here comes in the best doctor that ever Scotland bred.

Chief. What can you cure?

The doctor then relates his skill in surgery.

Chief. What will ye tak to cure this man?

Doctor. Ten pound and a bottle of Wine.

Chief. Will six not do?

Doctor. No, you must go higher.

Chief. Seven?

Doctor. That will not put on the pot, &e.

A bargain however is struck, and the Doctor says to Jack, start to your feet and stand.

Jack. Oh boo, my back, I’m fairly wounded.

Doctor. What ails your back?

Jack. There’s a hole in’t you may turn your tongue ten times round it!

Doctor. How did you get it?

Jack. Fighting for our land.

Doctor. How mony did you kill?

Jack. I killed a’ the loons save ane, but he ran, he wad na stand.

Here, most unfortunately, there is a “hole i' the ballad,” a hiatus which irreparably closes the door upon our keenest prying. During the late war with France Jack was made to say he had been “fighting the French,” and that the loon who took leg bail was no less a personage than Nap. le grand! Whether we are to regard this as a dark prophetic anticipation of what did actually take place, seems really problematical. The strange eventful history however is wound up by the entrance of Judas with the bag. He says:

Here comes in Judas—Judas is my name,
If ye pit nought sillar i’ my bag, for gude-sake mind our wame!
When I gaed to the castle yett and tirl't at the pin,
They keepit the keys o’ the castle wa’, and wad na let me in.
I’ve been i’ the east carse,
I’ve been i’ the west carse,
I’ve been i’ the carse o’ Gowrie,
Where the clouds rain a’ day wi’ peas nod wi’ beans!
And the farmers theek houses wi’ needles and prins!
I’ve seen geese gain’ on pattens
And swine fleeing i’ the air like peelings o’ onions!
Our hearts are made o’ steel, but our body’s sma’ as ware,
If you’ve onything to gi’ us, stap it in there!

This character in the, piece seems to mark its ecclesiastical origin, being of course taken from the office of the betrayer in the New Testament; whom, by the way, he resembles in another point; as extreme jealousy exists among the party, this personage appropriates to himself the contents of the bag The money and wassel, which usually consists of farles of short bread, or cakes and pieces of cheese, are therefore frequently counted out before the whole.

One of the guisards who has the best voice, generally concludes the exhibition by singing an “auld Scottish sang.” The must ancient melodies only are considered appropriate for this occasion, and many very fine ones are often sung that have not found their way into collections: or the group join in a reel, lightly tripping it, although encumbered with buskins of straw wisps, to the merry sound of the fiddle, which used to form a part of the establishment of these itinerants. They anciently however appear to have been accompanied with a musician, who played the kythels, or stock-and-born, a musical instrument made of the thigh bone of a sheep and the horn of a bullock.

The above practice, like many customs of the olden time, is now quickly falling Into disuse, and the revolution of a few years may witness the total extinction of this seasonable doing. That there does still exist in other places of Scotland the remnants of plays performed upon similar occasions, and which may contain many interesting allusions, is very likely. That noticed above, however, is the first which we remember of seeing noticed in a particular manner.

The kirk of Scotland appears formerly to have viewed these festivities exactly as she Roman church in France did in the sixteenth century; and, as a proof of this, and of the style in which the sport was anciently conducted in the parish of Falkirk, we have a remarkable instance so late as the year 1702. A great number of farmers sons and farm servants from the “East Carse” were publicly rebuked before the session, or ecclesiastical court, for, going about in disguise upon the last night of December that year, “acting things unseemly;” and having professed their sorrow for the sinfulness of the deed, were certified if they should be found guilty of the like in time coming, they would be proceeded against after another manner. Indeed the scandalized kirk might have been compelled to put the cutty stool in requisition, as a consequence of such promiscuous midnight meetings.

The observance of the old custom of “first fits” upon New-year’s day is kept up at Falkirk with as much spirit as any where else. Both Old and New Style have their “keepers,” although many of the lower classes keep them in rather a “disorderly style.” Soon as the steeple clock strikes the ominous twelve, all is running, and bustle, and noise; hot-pints in clear scoured copper kettles are seen in all directions, and a good noggin to the well-known toast, “A gude new year, and a merry han’sel Monday,” is exchanged among the people in the streets, as well as friends in the houses. On han’sel Monday O. S. the numerous colliers in the neighbourhood of the town have a grand main of cocks; but there is nothing in these customs peculiar to the season.

Falkirk, 1825. J. W. R.

[See: Handsel Monday; see also Brand's Hagmena and Hansel Monday and Tuesday]


Annual Jocular Tenure.

The following are recorded particulars of a whimsical custom in Yorkshire by which a right of sheep-walk is held by the tenants of a manor:—

Hutton Conyers, Com. York.

Near this town, which lies a few miles from Ripon, there is a large common caUed Hutton Conyers Moor, whereof William Aislabie, esq. of Studley Royal, (lord of the manor of Hutton Conyers) is lord of the soil, and on which there is a large coney-warren belonging to the lord. The occupiers of messuages and cottages within the several towns of Hutton Conyers, Baldersby, Rainton, Dishforth, and Hewick, have right of estray for their sheep to certain limited boundaries on the common, and each township has a shepherd.

The lord’s shepherd has a preeminence of tending his sheep on every part of the common; and wherever he herds the lord’s sheep, the several other shepherds are to give way to him, and give up their hoofing-place, so long as he pleases to depasture the lord’s sheep thereon. The lord holds his court the first day in the year, to entitle those several townships to such right of estray; the shepherd of each township attends the court, and does fealty, by bringing to the court a large apple-pie, and a twopenny sweetcake, (except the shepherd of Hewick, who compounds by paying sixteen pence for ale, which is drank as after mentioned,) and a wooden spoon; each pie is cut in two, and divided by the bailiff, one half between the steward, bailiff, and the tenant of the coney-warren before mentioned, and the other half into six parts, and divided amongst the six shepherds of the above mentioned six townships. In the pie brought by the shepherd of Rainton an inner one is made, filled with prunes. The cakes are divided in the same manner. The bailiff of the manor provides furmety and mustard, and delivers to each shepherd a slice of cheese and a penny roll. The furmety, well mixed with mustard, is put into an earthen pot, and placed in a hole in the ground, in a garth belonging to the bailiff’s house; to which place the steward of the court, with the bailiff, tenant of the warren, and six shepherds, adjourn with their respective wooden spoons. The bailiff provides spoons for the stewards, the tenant of the warren, and himself. The steward first pays respect to the furmety, by taking a large spoonful, the bailiff has the next honour, the tenant of the warren next, then the shepherd of Hutton Conyers and afterwards the other shepherds by regular turns; then each person is served with a glass of ale, (paid for by the sixteen pence brought by the Hewich shepherd,) and the health of the lord of the manor is drank; then they adjourn back to the bailiff's house, and the further business of the Court is proceeded in.

Each pie contains about a peck of flour, is about sixteen or eighteen inches diameter, and as large as will go into the mouth of an ordinary oven. The bailiff of the manor measures them with a rule, and takes the diameter; and if they are not of a sufficient capacity, he threatens to return them, and fine the town. If they are large enough, he divides them with a rule and compasses into four equal parts; of which the steward claims one, the warrener another, and the remainder is divided amongst the shepherds. In respect to the furmety, the top of the dish in which it is put is placed level with the surface of the ground; all persons present are invited to eat of it, and those who do not, are not deemed loyal to the lord. Every shepherd is obliged to eat of it, and for that purpose is to take a spoon in his pocket to the court; for if any of them neglect to carry a spoon with him, he is to lay him down upon his belly, and sup the furmety with his face to the pot or dish, at which time it is usual, by way of sport, for some of the bystanders to dip his face into the furmety; and sometimes a shepherd, for the sake of diversion, will purposely leave his spoon at home.8



To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.


A practice which well deserves to be known and imitated is established at Maresfield-park, Sussex, the seat of sir John Shelley, bart. M. P. Rewards are annually given on New-year’s day to such of the industrious poor in the neighbourhood as have not received parish relief, and have most distinguished themselves by their good behaviour and industry, the neatness of their cottages and gardens, and their constant attendance at church, &c. The distribution is made by lady Shelley, assisted by other ladies; and it is gratifying to observe the happy effects upon the character and disposition of the poor people with which this benevolent practice has been attended during the few years it has been established. Though the highest reward does not exceed two guineas, yet it has excited a wonderful spirit of emulation, and many a strenuous effort to avoid receiving money from the parish. Immediately as the rewards are given, all the children belonging to the Sunday-school and national-school lately established in the parish, are set down to a plentiful dinner in the servants’ hall; and after dinner they also receive prizes for their good conduct as teachers, and their diligence as scholars.

I am, &c.

J. S.




A Gentleman of Literary Habits and Means.

For the Every-day Book.

All hail to the birth of the year,
See golden haired Phœbus afar;
Prepares to renew his career,
And is mounting his dew spangled car.

Stern Winter congeals every brook,
That murmured so lately with glee;
And places a snowy peruke,
On tire head of each bald pated tree.

Now wild duck and widgeon abound,
Snipes sit by the half frozen rills
Where woodcocks are frequently found,
That sport such amazing long bills.

The winds blow out shrilly and hoarse,
And the rivers are choking with ice;
And it comes as a matter of coarse,
That Wallsends are rising in price.

Alas! for the poor as unwilling
I gaze on each famishing group;
I never miss giving a shilling,
To the parish subscription for soup.

The wood pigeon, sacred to love,
Is wheeling in circles on high;
How charming he looks in the grove
How charming he looks in the pie

Now gone is St. Thomas’s day,
The shortest, alas in the year.
And Christmas is hasting away,
With its holly and berries and beer,

And the old year for ever is gone,
With the tabor, the pipe, and the dance,
And gone is our collar of brawn,
And gone is the mermaid to France.

The scythe and the hour glass of time,
Those fatal mementos of woe,
Seem to utter in accents sublime,
We ace all of us going to go!”


Notes from Hone:

1. Mirror of the Months. Return

2. Vita Edw. 11. Return

3. In Architren. Lib. 2. Return

4. The name of some horse. Return

5. The name of another horse. Return

6. The name of a cow. Return

7. The author of Waverly, in a note to the Abbot, mentions three Moralities played during the time of the reformation – The Abbot of Unreason, The Boy Bishop, and the Pepe o' Fools – may not pack o' fools be a corruption of this last? Return

8. Blount's Flug Antiq. By Beckwith. Return


William Hone, The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information. London: Thomas Tegg, 1832. JANUARY 1.


To further exemplify the old custom of New Year’s Gifts, of which there are statements at large elsewhere, (In the Every-Day Book) a few curious facts are subjoined.


In the year 1604, upon New Year’s Day, Prince Henry, then in his tenth year, sent to his father, king James I., a short poem in hexameter Latin verses, being his first offering of that kind.

Books were not only sent as presents on this day, but the practice occasioned numerous publications bearing the title, as a popular denomination, without their contents at all referring to the day. For example, the following are titles of some in the library of the British Museum

A New-Year’s-Gift, dedicated to the Pope’s Holiness 1579.” 4to.

A New-Year’s-Gift to be presented to the King’s most excellent Majestie: with a petition from his loyale Subjects, 1646.” 4to.

The complete New-Year’s Gift, or Religious Meditations, 1725.” l2mo.

The Young Gentleman’s New-Year’s Gift, or Advice to a Nephew, 1729.” l2mo.

Among the works published under this title, the most curious is a very diminutive and extremely rare volume called “The New-Year’s Gift, presented at court from the Lady Parvula, to the Lord Mininius (commonly called little Jeffery), her majesty’s servant—with a letter penned in short hand, wherein is proved that little things are better than great. Written by Microphulus, 1636.” This very singular publication was written in defence of Jeffery Hudson, who, in the reign of Charles I., was a celebrated dwarf, and had been ridiculed by Sir William Davenant, in a poem called Jeffreidos,concerning a supposed battle between Jeffery and a turkey-cock. Sir Walter Scott has revived the popularity of the little hero by introducing him into” Peverel of the Peak.



A crane was a sumptuous dish at the tables of the great in ancient times.

William the Conqueror was remarkable for an immense paunch, and withal was so exact, so nice and curious in his repasts, that when his prime favorite, William Fitz Osborne, who, as dapifer or steward of the household, had the charge of the curey, served him with the flesh of a crane scarcely half roasted, the king was so highly exasperated that he lifted up his fist, and would have struck him, had not Eudo, who was appointed dapifer immediately after, warded off the blow. (Citing Pegges' Form of Curey, vi.)

Tame cranes, kept in the middle ages, are said to have stood before the table at dinner, and kneeled, and bowed the head, when a bishop gave the benediction. (Citing Fosbroke) But how they knelt is as fairly open to enquiry, as how Dives could take his seat in torment, as he did, according to an old carol, “all on a serpent’s knee.” [See: Dives and Lazarus]


In 1605, the year after prince Henry presented his verses to James I., Sir Dudley Carleton writes:—“New year’s day passed without any solemnity, and the exorbitant gifts that were wont to be used at that time are so far laid by, that the accustomed present of the purse of gold was hard to be had without asking.” It appears, however, that in this year the Earl of Huntingdon presented and received a new year’s gift. His own words record the method of presenting and receiving it.

The manner of presenting a New-yere’s gifte to his Majestie from the Earle of Huntingdon.

You must buy a new purse of about vs. price, and put thereinto xx pieces of new gold of xxs. a-piece, and go to the presence-chamber, where the court is, upon new-yere’s day, in the morning about 8 o’clocke, and deliver the purse and the gold unto my Lord Chamberlain then you must go down to the Jewell-house for a ticket to receive xviiis. vid. as a gift to your pains, and give vid. there to the boy for your ticket; then go to Sir William Veall’s office, and shew your ticket, and receive your xviiis. vid. Then go to the Jewell-house again, and make a piece of plate of xxx ounces weight, and marke it, and then in the afternoone you may go and fetch it away, and then give the gentleman who delivers it you xls. in gold, and give to the boy vs, and to the porter vid.” (Citing Nichols's Progresses)


From the household book of Henry Algernon Percy, the fifth Earl of Northumberland, in 1511, it appears, that, when the earl was at home, he was accustomed to give on new-year’s day as follows,—

To the king’s servant bringing a new-year’s gift from the king, if a special friend of his lordship, £6. 13s. 4d.; if only a servant to the king, £5.

To the servant bringing the queen’s new-year’s gift £3. 6s. 8d.

To the servant of his son-in-law, bringing a new-year’s gift, 13s. 4d.

To the servant bringing a new-year’s gift from his lordship’s son and heir, the lord Percy, 12d.

To the daily minstrels of the household, as his tabret, lute, and rebeck, upon new- year’s day in the morning, when they play at my lord’s chamber door, 20s. viz. 13s. 4d. fur my lord and 6s. 8d. for my lady, if she be at my lord’s finding, and not at her own. And for playing at my lord Percy’s chamber door 2s., and 8d a piece for playing at each of my lord’s younger sons.

To each of my lord’s three henchmen, when they give his lordship gloves, 6s. 8d.

To the grooms of his lordship’s chamber, to put in their box, 20s.

My lord useth and accustometh to give yearly, when his lordship is at home, and hath an Abbot of misrule in Christmas, in his lordship’s house, upon new-year’s day, in reward, 20s.

To his lordship’s officer of arms, herald, or pursuivant, for crying “ Largess” before his lordship on new-year’s day, as upon the twelfth day following, for each day, lOs.

To his lordship’s six trumpets, when they play at my lord’s chamber door, on new-year’s day in the morning, 13s. 4d. for my lord, and 6s. 8d. for my lady, if she be at my lord’s finding.

To his lordship’s footmen, when they do give his lordship gloves in the morning, each of them 3s. 4d.5


Sir John Harrington, of Bath, sent to James I. (then James VI. of Scotland only) at Christmas, 1602, for a New-year’s gift, a curious “dark lantern.” The top was a crown of pure gold, serving also to cover a perfume pan; within it was a shield of silver embossed, to reflect the light; on one side of which were the sun, moon, and planets, and on the other side the story of the birth and passion of Christ “as it is found graved by a king of Scots [David II.] that was prisoner in Nottingbarn.” Sir John caused to be inscribed in Latin, on this present, the following passage for his majesty’s perusal, “Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Mr. Park well observes of this New-year’s lantern, that “it was evidently fabricated at a moment when the lamp of life grew dim in the frame of queen Elizabeth: it is curious as a relique of court-craft, but it displays a ‘darkness visible’ in the character of our politic knight, and proves that he was an early worshipper of the regal sun which rose in the:north, though his own ‘notes and private remembrances’ would seem to indicate a different disposition.” In truth the “regal sun” of the north had not yet appeared above the horizon; for Elizabeth was still living, and the suppliant to her expected successor was actually writing of her, in these terms: “I find some less mindful of what they are soon to lose, than of what perchance they may hereafter get. Now, on my own part, I cannot blot from my memory’s table the goodness of our sovereign lady to me, even (I will say) before born. Her affection to my mother, who waited in her privy chamber, her bettering the state of my father’s fortune, her watchings over my youth, her liking to my free speech, &c., have rooted such love, such dutiful remembrance of her princely virtues, that to turn askant from her condition with tearless eyes would stain and foul the spring and fount of gratitude,” The grieving knight’wrote thus of his “sovereign lady,” to his own wife, whom he calls “sweet Mall,” two days after he had dispatched the dark lantern to James, with “Lord remember use when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Citing Nugæ Antiquæ i. 321, 325)

Dark Lantern.

It is a persuasion among the illiterate that it is not lawful to go about with a dark lantern. This groundless notion is presumed to have been derived either from - Guy Fawkes having used a dark lantern as a conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot, or from the regulation of the curfew which required all fires to be extinguished by a certain hour.


Lanterns were in use among the ancients. One was discovered in the subterranean ruins of Herculaneum. Some lanterns were of horn, and others of bladder resembling horn. One of Stosch’s gems represents Love enveloped in drapery, walking softly, and carrying a lantern in his hand. The dark lantern of the Roman sentinels was square, covered on three sides with black skin, and on the other side white skin, which permitted the light to pass. On the Trojan column is a great ship-lantern hanging before the poop of the vessel. With us, lanterns were in common use very early. That horn-lanterns were invented by Alfred is a common, but apparently an erroneous statement; for Mr. Fosbroke shows that not only horn, but glass lanterns were mentioned as in use among the Anglo-Saxons, many years before Alfred lived. That gentleman cites from Aldhelm, who wrote in the seventh century, a passage to this effect, “Let not the glass lantern be despised, or that made of a shorn hide and osier-twigs; or of a thin skin, although a brass lamp may excel it.” Our ancient hand-lantern was an oblong square, carried the narrow end uppermost, with an arched aperture for the light, and a square handle. (Citing Barrington’s Obs. on Anc. Statutes. Brand.)

Lantern and Candle-light.

This was the usual cry of the old London bellman. It is mentioned as such by Heywood in the “Rape of Lucrece.”

Lantern and candle light-here,
Maids ha’ tight there,
Thus go the cries.

The same writer, in “Edward IV., 1626,” speaks of “no more calling of lanthorn and candle light.” Hence two tracts by Dekker bear the title of “Lanthorn and candle-light: or the bellman’s night.walk.” (Citing Nare's Glossary) Two other tracts, also by Dekker, are entitled “English villanies, &c., discovered by lanthorne and candlelight, and the help of a new cryer, called O-Per-Se-O, 1648,” &c.


In a MS. book of disbursements of sir John Francklyn, bart., at his house at Wilsden in Middhesex, is an account of New-year’s gifts in 1625.

The last item is supposed to have been for a drink from the wassail-cup, which girls were accustomed to offer at new- year’s tide, in expectation of a gift. The apple stuck with nuts may have been a rustic imitation of the common new-year’s gift of “an orange stuck with cloves,” mentioned by Ben Jonson in his Christmas Masque. The new-year’s gift of Capons from tenants to their landlords appears from Cowley to have been customary.

Ye used in the former days to fall
Prostrate unto your landlord in his hail,
When with low legs, and in an humble guise,
Ye offered up a capon sacrifice
Unto his worship at a New-year’s tide.

This Custom of capon-giving is also mentioned by Bishop Hall, in one of his satires.

Yet must he haunt his greedy landlord’s hall
With often presents at each festival
With crammed capons every New-year’s morn,
Or with green cheeses when his sheep are shorn. (Archæologia)

A manuscript of Ceremonies and services at court, in the time of king Henry VII., entitled a “Royalle Book,” formerly belonging to the distinguished antiquary Peter Le Neve, Norroy king at arms, and supposed by him to have been written by an esquire or gentleman-usher of that sovereign, contains the order of regal ceremony to this effect:-

On New-year’s Day the king ought to wear his surcoat, and his kirtle, and his pane of ermine; and, if his pane be five ermine deep, a duke shall be but four; an earl three. And the king must have on his head his hat of estate, and his sword before him; the chamberlain, the steward, the treasurer, the comptroller, and the ushers, before the sword; and before them all other lords, save only them that wear robes; and they must follow the king: and the greatest estate to lead the queen. This array belongs to the feasts of New-year’s Day, Candlemas Day, Midsummer Day, the Assumption of our Lady, and the Nativity of our Lady, as it pleaseth the king. And, if two of the king’s brethren be there, one is to lead the queen, and another to go with him that beareth the train of the king; and else no man in England, save the prince.

Also, the king going in a day of estate in procession, crowned, the queen ought not to go in that procession without the queen be crowned; but to abide in her closet or travers, or else where it pleaseth the king that she shall abide.

On New-year’s Day in the morning, the king, when he cometh to his foot-schete, an usher of the chamber to be ready at the chamber door, and say, “Sire, here is a year’s-gift coming from the queen.” And then he shall say, “Let it come in, sire.” And then the usher shall let in the messenger with the gift, and then, after that, the greatest estate’s servant that is come, each one after the other according to their estate; and, after that done, all other lords and ladies after their estate. And all this while the king must sit at his foot-schete. This done, the chamberlain shall send for the treasurer of the chamber, and charge the treasurer to give the messenger that bringeth the queen’s gift, if he be a knight, ten marks; and if be be an esquire eight marks, or at the least one hundred shillings: and the king’s mother one hundred shillings; and those that come from the king’s brothers and sisters, each of them, six marks: and to every duke and duchess, each of them, five marks; and every earl and countess forty shillings. These be the rewards of them that bring year’s gifts. Whether the king will do more or less, this hath been done. And this done the king goeth to make him ready, and go to his service in what array he liketh.

The queen, in likewise, to sit at her foot-schete, and her chamberlain and ushers to do as the king’s did. Her rewards to them that bring her gifts shall not be so good as the king’s. (Citing Antiq. Rep.)


The receiving and giving of New-year’s gifts by the king is discontinued. The only remains of this ancient custom at court now is, that the two chaplains in waiting on New-year’s Day have each a crown-piece laid under their plates at dinner. (Citing Mr. Nichols, Progresses Q. Eliz. Pref.)


On New-year's Day, 1668, Mr. Pepys, in his diary, says that after dinner he went to the Duke’s Theatre, and “Thence to Whitehall, and then walked up and down the house awhile. By-and-by I met with Mr. Brisland, and having it in my mind this Christmas to do, what I never can remember that I did, go to see the gaming at the Groom-Porter’s, he did lead me thither;- where, after staying an hour, they began to play at about eight at night. And to see the formality of the groom-porter, who is the judge of all disputes in play, and all quarrels that may arise therein, and how his under-officers are there to observe true play at each table, and to give new dice, is a consideration I never could have thought had been in the world, had I not now seen it.”

Mr. Evelyn saw Charles II. play at the groom-porter’s on Twelfth Night, 1662. He speaks of the excess with reprobation. For his observations, and an account of the office of groom-porter, see further on, in this month [January 6].


1662, January 1, Mr. Evelyn says, in his Diary, “I went to London, invited to the solemn foolerie of the Prince de la Grainge, at Lincoln’s Inn, where came the king (Charles II.), the duke, &c. It began with a grand masque, and a formal pleading before the mock princes, grandees, nobles, and knights of the sun. He had his lord chancellor, chamberlain, treasurer, and other royal officers, gloriously clad and attended. It ended in a magnificent banquet. One Mr. Lort was the young spark who maintained the pageantry.”


As early in the morning as people can possibly dress themselves in proper attire, they set out on a round of visits to relations and friends, to wish them a happy new year and to present them with bonbons. The relations are first visited, beginning with those nearest in affinity, then those that are further removed, and lastly come the friends and acquaintances. It is a contest of politeness on this occasion who shall start first, and anticipate the call of a relation or friend,

The shops of the confectioners are dressed up on the day before with looking-glasses, intermixed with festoons of silk or muslin, and bunches of ribands or flowers. The counters are covered with clean table-cloths, and set out with cakes, sweetmeats, dried fruits, and bonbons, constructed into pyramids, castles, columns, or any form which the taste of the decorator may suggest; and in the evening the shops are illuminated for the reception of company, who come to buy bon-hons for the next day. Endless are the devices for things in which they are to be enclosed; there are little boxes or baskets made of satin ornamented with gold, silver, or foil; balloons, books, fruit, such as apples, pears, oranges; or vegetables, such as a cauliflower, a root of celery, an onion ; any thing, in short, which can be made of confectionary, with a hollow within, to hold the bon-bons. The most prevailing device is called a cornet, which is a small cone ornamented in different ways with a bag, to draw over and close the large end. In these contrivances, the prices of which vary from one livre to fifty, the bon-bons are presented by those who choose to be at the expense of them; by those who do not they are only wrapped in a piece of paper; but it is indispensable that bon-bons in some way or other be presented. In the se visits to friends, and in gossiping at the confectioners’ shops, which are the great lounge for the occasion, the morning of New-year’s day is passed. A dinner is given by some member of the family to all the rest, and the evening concludes with cards, dancing, or any other amusement that may be preferred.

The decorations of the confectioners’ shops remain till twelfth-day; when there is a ceremony of drawing twelfth-cake, differing from the mode in England. The cake is very plain in its composition, being not better than a common bun, but large, so as to cut into slices. In one part a bean is introduced; and the person who draws the slice with the bean is king or queen, according to the sex of the drawer. Every one then drinks to the health of the new sovereign, who receives the general homage of the company for the evening. The rest of the company have no name or title of distinction.


Two remarkable lawsuits between a confectioner and a poet arose out of the celebration of New-year’s Day. The poet had been employed by the confectioner to write some mottoes in verse for his New-year’s Day bon-bons; and the agreement was, that he was to have six livres for live hundred couplets. The poet delivered his couplets in manuscript, according to the: agreement as he understood it; to this the confectioner objected, because he understood they were to be printed, and ready for enclosing within his bon-bons. The poet answered that not a word had passed on the subject of printing, and that he should not have agreed to furnish the mottoes at so low a price if he had understood the printing was to be included. Thereupon the parties joined issue, and a verdict was found for the poet; because, as no mention of printing was made, the confectioner had no claim to expect it; and because six livres was as little as could possibly be given for such a number of lines in manuscript. After this action against the confectioner was settled, the man of bon-bons brought an action against the son of Apollo, for that the poet had sold a copy of the same mottoes to another confectioner, whereas the plaintiff had understood that they were to be exclusively his. The defendant answered that not a word had passed indicating a transfer of exclusive right; and he maintained that he was at liberty to sell a copy to as many confectioners as chose to purchase one. Issue hereupon was again joined, and another verdict in favor of the poet established his right of selling and reselling his mottoes -for bon-bons to all the confectioners in the universe.



[For the Year Book.]

Years may roll on, and manhood’s brow grow cold,
And life’s dull winter spread its dark’ning pall
O’er cherish’d hopes; yet time cannot withhold
A precious boon which mem’ry gives to all :—
Fond recollection, when the tale is told
Which forms the record of life’s festival,
Recals the pleasures of youth’s opening scene,
And age seems young — rememb’ring what hath been.

Even as children in their happiest hours,
Gath’ring the blossoms which around them grow,
Wilt sometimes turn and strew the - early flowers
Over the grave of one—there lying low—
Who watched their infancy—so we; for ours
Are kindred feelings: we as gently throw
Our mem’ry garlands on the closing grave
Of joys we lov’d — yet loving, could not save.

William Hone, The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information. London: Thomas Tegg, 1832. January 2.


On the 2nd of January, 1662, king Charles II. took his pleasure in seeing the holiday pastimes of the lawyers. Mr. Pepys says of himself, in his diary, that while he was at Farthorne’s the fine engraver of old English portraits, whither he had gone to buy some pictures, “comes by the king’s life-guard, he being gone to Lincoln’s Inn this afternoon, to see the revels there-; there being, according to an old custom, a prince and all his nobles, and other matters of sport and change.” This prince whom the king visited at Lincolns' Inn was a prince of misrule respecting which mock-sovereign, and his court at Gray’s Inn, there is a full and diverting account hereafter.

Editor's Note: See Brand's New Year's Gifts.

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.

Related Hymns and Carols