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1.--CIRCUMCISION. On this day is celebrated the Circumcision of our Saviour, a rite of the Jewish law, first enjoined to Abraham as a token of the covenant God made with him and his posterity.
The institution of this festival may be traced to the sixth century at latest, a special office being provided for it by the Second Council of Tours. The office of the Circumcision was composed, for reasons, in some respects, similar to those for which the Homily was written. The Calends of January, or the beginning of the New Year, was a stated annual heathen festival, celebrated in the most gross and licentious manner : even after the suppression of these idolatrous rites by the emperors, men and women exchanged dresses, and many irregularities took place at this season. By some, this festival is called the Octave of Christmas,' but, by most persons, New Year's Day. At the commencement of the New Year, we rejoice with our friends, after having escaped the dangers that attend every season; and congratulate each other by presents and wishes for the happy continuance of that course, which the antients called. Stre. narum Commercium. The value of the thing given is not so much an object, as the time of giving it, and the civilities with which it is presented.
The Romans, at this time, sent presents of sweetmeats, as dried figs, honey, &c. (strenæ), expressing a wish, that their friends might enjoy the sweets of the year, into which they had entered. A relic of this custom is still observed in the south of Scotland, where the sweetie skon, a sort of plum-cake, constitutes the New Year's Gift. Among the northern nations, it was customary for subjects to present gifts to
their sovereigns, which were called jolagiafir, yulegifts.
An antient custom, yet retained in many places, was once practised on New Year's Eve; young women went about with a wassail-bowl of spiced ale, and sung verses as they went from door to door. The composition was ale, nutmeg, sugar, toast, and roasted crabs or apples. It was called Lamb's Wool. The antient phrases of quaffing among the English (was-haile and drinc-heil) are synonymous with the ! come here's to you,' and • I'll pledge you,' of the present day. : In Gloucestershire, the wassailers still carry about a great bowl, dressed up with garlands and ribbons, and sing the following verses :
Wassail! wassail ! all over the town,
A good Christmas pye as e'er I did see-
1 The name of some horse. ? The name of another horse.
The name of a cow,
y called star to pam their ne
i 6. EPIPHANY. On the Epiphany or manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, commonly called Twelfth Day, the Eastern magi were guided by the star to pay homage to their Saviour; and it takes its name from their coming on that day, which was the twelfth after the nativity. The rites of this day are different in various places, though the object of them is much the same in all; namely, to do honour to the memory of the Eastern magi, who, according to a tradition of the Romish Church, were three in number, and of royal dignity. The usual celebration of Twelfth-day, in the metropolis and in the south of England, is by drawing lots, and assuming fictitious characters for the evening :formerly the king or queen was chosen by a bean found in a piece of divided cake; and this was once a common Christmas gambol in both the English Universities. This custom is alluded to by Herrick, in his 6 Twelfe Night, or King and Queene.'
Now, now the mirth comes,
With the cake full of plums,
Beside we must know,
The Pea also
Partly worke and partly play,
Bring in pails of water then,
8.-SAINT LUCIAN. Saint Lucian, confessor and martyr, was born at Samosata in Syria. He was well versed in the Hebrew language, and employed much time in comparing and amending the copies of the Bible. Being at Nicomedia, where the Emperor Maximinus Il. resided, and having recited an apology for the Christian religion, which he had composed, before the governor of the city, he was cast into prison; and, after having endured the most cruel torments, was put to death.
10.-PLOUGH MONDAY. On this day, or about this time, in the north, the fool-plough goes about, a pageant that consists of a number of sword-dancers, dragging a plough, with music, and one, sometimes two, in a very fantastic dress; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woo' man, and the fool, almost covered with skins, wearing a hairy cap, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters is, to rattle a box among the spectators of the dance, in which he collects their little donations. This pageant or dance, as used at present, seems to be composed of the gleanings of several obsolete customs followed antiently, here and elsewhere, on this and other festive occasions.
13.-SAINT HILARY. Hilary was born at Poictiers in France, of an illustrious family; and of this place he was chosen bishop in the year 353. Having taken an active part against the Arians, he was banished to Phrygia, by order of the Emperor Constantius, in 356, where he remained for three years. After various travels in different parts, and many sufferings, Hilary died at Poictiers in 368. He was an excellent orator and poet ; his style abounds with rhetorical figures.
i 18.-SAINT PRISCA. i · Prisca, a Roman lady, was early converted to Christianity; but refusing to abjure her religion, and to offer sacrifice when she was commanded, was hor.
ribly tortured, and afterwards beheaded, under the Emperor Claudius, in the year 275.
. 20.---SAINT FABIAN, . He succeeded to the Pontificate in 236. It is related by Eusebius, that, in an assembly of the people and clergy held for the election of a pastor in his stead, a. dove unexpectedly appearing, settled, to the great surprise of all present, on the head of Saint Fabian, and that this miraculous sign determined his promotion. He suffered martyrdom in the persecution of Decius, in the year 250..
21.-SAINT AGNES: Agnes, a young Roman lady, of a noble family, suffered martyrdom in the tenth general persecution, under the Emperor Dioclesian, in the year 306. Although the executioners wounded her most cruelly with the sword, yet she bore it with incredible constancy, singing hymns all the time : she was then no more than thirteen or fourteen years of age. ,
This saint is pourtrayed with a lamb by her side, from the following circumstance: About eight days after her execution, her parents going to lament, and pray at her tomb, where they continued watching all night, it is reported that there appeared to them a vision of angels, arrayed in glittering and glorious apparel ; among whom they saw their own daughter, clothed in the same manner, and a lamb standing by her as white as snow. After that time, the Roman ladies went every year to present her, on this day, with the two best and purest white lambs they could possibly procure. These they offered at St. Agnes's altar, and the Pope directs them to be put into the choicest pastures till the time of sheep-shearing arrive: at this season the wool is taken, with which a fine white cloth is made and consecrated every year by the Pope himself, for the palls which he sends to every archbishop; and which till they have purchased at a most extravagant price, they.cannot exercise any metropolitical jurisdiction. - On the eve of St. Agnes's Day, many kinds of