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In JANUARY 18
JANUARY THE name given to this month by the Romans was taken from JANUS, one of their divinities, to whom they gave two faces; because, on the one side, the first day of this month looked towards the new year, and, on the other, towards the old one. 11.2 Remarkable Days ;",D
1822. 1.--CIRCUMCISION. This festival was instituted in the sixth century, to commemorate the circumcision of our Saviour. This is also New Year's-day, which has ever been considered a season of joy and congratulation for blessings received and dangers escaped in the past year. The antient custom of going about with the wassail, a bowl of spiced ale, on New Year's-eve, Twelfth-night, and Christmas-eye, is still kept up in many places. The mode- of proceeding in the western counties of England is as follows SA company of six men, having provided themselves with a little bowl, set out on the commencement of the new year to visit the inhabitants of the town or village in which they live. They rarely begin until the
candles are lighted, when, without ceremony, they silently open the door, and, in an audible voice, begin to sing some barbarous lines that seem to have neither sense nor meaning, any further than they contain a request that those within will bestow something on
These poor jolly wassail boys,
Come travelling through the mire; and, having obtained this either in meat, drink, or money, and sometimes in all, they retire and repeat the same ditty at the next door.-Ben Jonson has given us two curious personifications of the wassail; the first, in his Forest, No. 3; while giving an account of a rural feast in the hall of Sir Robert Wroth, he says,
The rout of rnral folk come thronging in,
Their rudeness then is thought no sin -
And in their cups their cares are drowned.: and, the second, in Christmas, His Masque, as it was presented at Court, 1616,' where Wassall, as one of the ten children of Christmas, is represented in the following quaint manner: Like a neat sempster, and songster; her page bearing a browne bowle, drest with ribbands, and rosemarie before her.
Fletcher, in his Faithful Shepherdess, has given a striking description of the festivity attendant on the wassail bowl:
The woods, or some pear town
'bout some lusty sport,
Whilst the trim minstrell strikes his merry note. The persons thus accompanying the wassail bowl, especially those who danced and played, were called wassailers, an appellation which it was afterwards customary to bestow on all who indulged, at any season, in intemperate mirth. Hence, Milton intro
duces his Lady in Comus making use of the term in the following beautiful passage:
Methought it was the sound
Of such late wassailers. New Year's-day is still observed in Scotland with much hilarity, and some curious ceremonies, for an account of which we refer to our last volume, pp. 1-3. Consult also T.T. from 1814 to 1819 inclusive, for a description of many interesting customs, now obsolete. In Cornwall, it is considered very unlucky to pay money on the first day of January, as it ensures a continuance of disbursements throughout the year.
Around whose form I yet survey, sind aus
Shall bye-past times come back again"?
60-EPIPHANY, OR TWELFTH-DAY, ti The rites of this day, the name of which signifies an appearance of light, or a manifestation, are different in various places, but all in honout of the Eastern Magi 1: There is a very antient and singular Gustom, in various parts of the continent, which takes place on the eve of the Epiphany, and is pers formed in the following manner: -A cake, made of flour, butter, and eggs, and of a size proportionable to the number of the guests, is brought in and divided into as many shares as "convives" are going to sit down to supper. These pieces, one of which conceals a bean lodged in the outer part of the cake, are tossed up in a napkin. The youngest person in the company comes forward, and having said grace, takes hold of a slice without looking at it, and then addresses the master of the house by these words : 'Fabæ Domine (lord of the bean), who is this for?' An answer is giverf; and when all the shares are drawn, the guest who finds the bean in his or her possession is declared king or queen of the feast, and becomes possessed of all the rights belonging to the president for the night. When either drinks, if any one in the company omits to say aloud, “the king” or “the queen drinks,” a fine is låwfully exacted, which consists in a pledge deposited in the
* Blackwood's Magazine, vol. ix, p. 390, and our last volume, p. 3.
hands of some one, to be redeemed after supper by a kiss or a song. This sort of amusement was well known at Rome, with this difference, that the king of the feast was not chosen by means of a bean, but by the cast of small bones called tali. They are the ankle-bones of sheep, which schoolboys in France still use for a game called osselets ; having been previously smoothed upon a stone, and reduced to four sides. The tessere, dice, have six. Horace says, Carm. lib. 1, od. 4:
But when you sink to Plato's hall,
To choose you Monarch of the wine. Another custom, on the eve of the Epiphany, still practised on the continent, is to take a few larks, and spit them upon a fresh-cut twig of hazel, and place them before a good fire; after a few minutes' expectation, the whole begins to turn without help, and as if by a spontaneous motion. The staring company, in amazement and rapture, cry Miracle ! and remain persuaded that this cannot be done but by supernatural agency or magic. The fact is, that the sap contained in the veins of the twig (which are probably set in a spiral line round the centre) being successively attracted by the fire, causes a sort of rotation'.
Of the Popish Carnival, which commences on Twelfth-day, and usually holds till Lent, many curious particulars will be found in our preceding volames;-we shall now add an account of the Carnival at Rome in 1820,' from the pen of the lively and entertaining Lady Morgan, whose work on 'Italy' contains some admirable sketches of the manners and customs of the modern Romans.
"The Carnival' says our author) 'commences on
See the very entertaining notes to Tabella Cibaria, a Poem, pp. 76, 32; and some lines alluding to the bean in T.T. for 1820, p. 9.