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Title: Holidays & Happy-Days
Author: Hendry, Hamish
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Holidays & Happy-Days" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



    The Larger Dumpy Books for Children


    Holidays & Happy-Days







     1. NEW YEAR'S DAY
     5. ST. DAVID'S DAY
     7. ALL FOOLS' DAY
    12. ST. GEORGE'S DAY
    13. MAY DAY
    21. ST. ANDREW'S DAY
    24. BOXING DAY

    Engraved & Printed
    at the


Little children are usually snug in bed when the first holiday of the
year arrives. It comes at midnight when all is dark out of doors.
Sometimes the weather is very cold, here in England, with snow upon the
ground; and as it nears midnight on the 31st December there is a great
silence beneath the stars. The children are in bed; but in most homes
there are grown-up people--fathers, mothers, uncles or aunts--who sit
late and watch the clock. They watch; and when the clock strikes twelve
they know that the first day of the New Year has arrived.

Then it is no longer silent out of doors. The bells are ringing loudly,
and ringing merrily; they are ringing a welcome to the Stranger. So the
grown-up people, who have been watching the clock, rise up smiling and
wish each other a Happy New Year. The father says to the mother: "I wish
you a Happy New Year, my dear," and in saying this they shake hands,
and kiss each other. Then the mother, if she has children in bed, goes
upstairs. They are all asleep; so she does not waken them. She simply
kisses them, each one, and smiles as she whispers: "A Happy New Year to
all of you, my dears." That is how the New Year arrives in England. In
Scotland there is more ceremony. There it used to be the custom for the
whole household to sit up till twelve o'clock and bring in the New Year
with singing and frolic. But that custom is dying out.

You children, I hope, get to know about the New Year in the morning. You
find that everybody is looking happy, and wishing happiness to other
people. Even although the sun is not shining there is brightness in the
house and in the street. People when they meet shake hands and joke and
laugh. Your aunt will give you a good hug, and more than likely your
uncle will put his hand into his pocket and give you something;
something round and bright; something that will make you smile. Then you
learn that the New Year brings gifts as well as gladness.

But nowadays the giving of presents is not so common as it used to be.
Far back in English history the grown-up people gave each other gifts on
New Year's Day, and some of these gifts were very beautiful and very
costly. Diamond necklaces, gold caskets, jewelled swords, embroidered
mantles--these were the kind of gifts which rich people gave to each
other at the feast of the New Year. Our English Kings and Queens, in the
old days, received many such precious gifts. Queen Elizabeth got so many
valuable presents in this way that a list of them was kept upon
parchment, and in the history books it may still be read.

This custom of giving rich presents to rich people on New Year's Day
exists no longer in England; and that is well. For in many cases these
costly gifts were given not from kindness but from selfishness; the
gift-givers wanted some favour in return. Now, it is an ill thing to
begin a New Year with a spirit of greediness. None of you children, I am
sure, will do so. Be thankful that you have got the gift of another New
Year's Day. It is the first clean page of a fine new book in which you
can write just what you please. Write something cheerful; and see to it
that there are no blots.


The sixth day in each year is called Twelfth Day. That is a little odd
is it not? Well, the reason is this: In very ancient times there was a
great Christian Festival which began upon Christmas Day and lasted for
twelve days. It was called the Feast of the Nativity, because it was
held in honour of the coming of Christ to earth, and both the first day
of the feast and the last day were held very sacred. On the last, or
twelfth day, special honour was given to the Three Kings who are spoken
of in the New Testament as the Three Wise Men who came from the east to
Jerusalem, led by a star. The star guided these Three Kings to Bethlehem
where they saw the young child Jesus and offered gifts to him of gold,
frankincense and myrrh.

At first this feast, which we call Epiphany, was of a very solemn
nature, but in the Middle Ages it lost a great deal of its sacred
character. The festival of the Three Kings became noisy and
frolicsome, and sometimes it was arranged in the form of a little play.
In this play three friars or monks were dressed up like Kings, with
crowns upon their heads, and a golden star was carried before them.
Within the church, near the altar, a manger would be arranged with an ox
and an ass, in imitation of the manger at Bethlehem. Here, also, was the
child Christ and his mother. To them would enter the Three Kings,
accompanied by a merry crowd, and gifts were offered to the Babe--gold,
frankincense and myrrh. It was a pretty sight, perhaps, but not at all

In later times still, Twelfth Day was almost wholly given up to frolic
and feasting. Special plays were written to amuse the people, and it is
probably for that reason we have Shakspere's play called "Twelfth
Night." The chief custom of this merry day was the election of a King of
the Bean; sometimes there was also a Queen. No doubt this making of a
King had its connection with the honour done to the Three Kings in the
early festival; it may also be connected with an old Roman custom. Here
is how the King was elected on Twelfth Day. A large cake, called Twelfth
Cake, was baked for the day, and inside the cake a bean was placed.
When all the company were gathered to the feast the cake was cut up, and
the fortunate person who got the piece of cake with the bean in it was
made King of the Bean, and had charge of the revels. Sometimes the names
of the company were put in a bowl, and each one received a piece of the
cake as his or her name was drawn by lot.

There was much fun and laughter, you may be sure, as the names were
being drawn, the cake cut up, and the bean discovered. It is the kind of
fun which you children would have enjoyed. For the Twelfth Cake, in the
old days, was usually very large, baked into very queer shapes, and
always very nice to eat. Nowadays, the cakes upon Twelfth Day have
become much smaller, and in some households this merry day is forgotten
altogether. You will agree with me, children, that this is a mistake. It
is a mistake to forget the good old customs; and it is doubly a mistake
when the custom is made cheerful with laughter and cake.


Not very much is known about St. Valentine. Indeed, there were several
saints of that name who were set down in the calendar for loving
remembrance on the Fourteenth day of February. One of them was a martyr,
and died for the Christian faith at Rome. But these saints have no
connection with the ceremonies of St. Valentine's Day except that the
priests of the early Christian Church set that particular day apart for
a special feast. This feast was meant to take the place of certain
ceremonies practised by the common people of the old world in their
worship of the Roman gods. But the people did not easily forget their
old customs, and some of these were, until recent times, practised on
St. Valentine's Day in a new form.

One of these customs was for young men and maidens to cast lots in the
choice of partners. Upon the eve of St. Valentine's Day, in England, it
was usual for young people to meet together, each one writing his or
her name upon a piece of paper. When this was done the papers were
rolled up tightly and put into two bowls. Then each young man drew the
name of a girl and she was his _Valentine_, and each girl drew the name
of a young man and he was her _Valentine_. It was little more than a
merry mode of choosing partners for the festival of St. Valentine; but
sometimes the young folks took this choice by lot quite seriously, and
the partnership ended in marriage.

With the English poets St. Valentine's Day has always been a favourite.
You will find it mentioned by Chaucer, Shakspere, and many another of
lesser note. At one time it was not uncommon for a young man to send a
set of verses to his _Valentine_ on the morning of the 14th of February.
Most of these were very poor verses, but sometimes a true poet sent a
greeting to his Valentine. As when Drayton sent these happy lines:

    Muse, bid the Morn awake,
      Sad winter now declines,
    Each bird doth choose a mate;
      This day's St. Valentines
    For that good Bishop's sake
      Get up and let us see
      What beauty it shall be
    That fortune us assigns.

Nowadays St. Valentine's Day has lost nearly all its popularity;
certainly, it has lost all its merry charm. The time is not so
distant--your fathers and mothers may remember it--when the postman's
bag was laden with valentines upon St. Valentine's Day. Some of them
were in large embossed envelopes and the valentines themselves were
glittering things. There was nearly always a little gilt Cupid with his
bow and arrows, and the mottoes and verses were always very very
sentimental. Some of the valentines, also, were strange and ugly as they
came from the postman's bag. These were what is called "mock"
valentines, and the people who received them were sometimes very angry.
Now the sending of valentines has fallen into disfavour, especially the
pretty ones. As for the others, the ugly mock valentines, they are very
ill-natured and foolish. Have nothing to do with them; they are not
worthy of happy St. Valentine's Day.


Pancake Tuesday is quite a nice name is it not? But it is not the only
name for this holiday. It is also called Shrove Tuesday, Shrovetide,
Fasting-tide, and Fasten-e'en or Fastern's-e'en. I shall try to explain
to you why it has all these names. There is, as you must know, a great
festival of the Christian Church called Easter. It is the festival of
the resurrection of Christ, and to prepare for this solemn festival the
ancient Church set apart a period of fasting which we call Lent. This
fasting-time begins upon Ash Wednesday, and on the morning of the
previous day, in the old times, people went to the priests to confess
their sins and get shriven. Hence it was called Shrove or Shriven
Tuesday; hence, also, it was called Fasten-e'en, because it was upon the
eve of the Great Fast.

After attending church in the morning the people were permitted to enjoy
themselves to their heart's desire all the rest of Shrove Tuesday, and
before the rigorous fasting-time of Lent began. During the Middle Ages,
indeed, this merry-tide lasted for several days, and some idea of the
jollity of Shrovetide can be gathered from the way in which the Carnival
is held upon the Continent, even now. In England, during the old times
before the Reformation, there were great feasts during Shrovetide, and
all the old English games and pastimes went right merrily. Some of these
pastimes were very rough and cruel--such as cock-fighting and
bull-baiting--and would not be permitted to-day. But there were also
such games as football and hand-ball; and in certain towns in Scotland
the game of hand-ball is still played, sometimes very roughly, upon

Of all the jollity and junketting of that festive time very little
remains to us; almost nothing except the practice of baking and eating
pancakes upon Shrove Tuesday. But nowadays the ceremonies connected with
Pancake Tuesday are not so important and picturesque as they used to be.
In the old days--the days when Shakspere lived--a bell was rung in the
morning called the Pancake Bell. At the sound of the bell the
preparation of the pancakes began. Wheaten flour mixed with water,
spices, eggs and other nice things were dropped into the frying-pan as
it sizzled over the fire. Then followed the tossing of the pancakes.
This was a time of great fun, because it required a good deal of skill
to toss the pancakes and catch them in the pan. In giving them a quick
twirl round the pancakes sometimes dropped into the fire. But that did
not greatly matter, because there were always plenty of pancakes for
everybody; and also plenty of fun in the eating of them.

There was only one person in the company who did not enjoy the fun. For
the first pancake tossed in the pan was given to that member of the
party who was considered the most lazy. It was seldom eaten, you may be
sure, as the Lazy One found it the best plan to run away and hide. But
it was a merry day, especially for young people at school and college.
At Westminster School, for instance, the cook used to bring his
frying-pan with a pancake in it right into the schoolroom and toss it
among the boys. In the scramble that followed the boy who captured the
pancake unbroken and carried it to the Dean received a guinea for his
cleverness. That was a jolly game and it is only one of many that used
to be popular on Pancake Tuesday. 'Tis a pity that much of this
merry-making has disappeared.


There is a little corner of Wales which is very dear to all true Welsh
folk. It is very close to the sea, near St. David's Head, and its
interest gathers round an ancient cathedral of red stone and the holy
man who is buried in this cathedral. This old building, with others,
stands beside a little stream called the Alan, and here also is the city
of St. David's, now a small village. It is all very lonely nowadays,
this peaceful shrine near the restless sea, but in the Middle Ages it
was a busy place. There were the comings and goings of great Kings and
Queens with their followers, and many pilgrims of lesser name visited
this shrine to do homage to the memory of the Welsh Saint. There are
still many people who visit St. David's, the ancient Menevia, and the
cathedral founded by the patron saint of Wales.

A great number of legends--stories of marvel and miracle--have been told
about St. David. An angel is said to have been his constant attendant
in his youth, and to have ministered to all his wants. In later years he
began to preach, making long journeys through Wales and England, and
visiting Jerusalem. When he preached to the people, so the old legends
tell us, a snow-white dove sat upon the shoulder of the saint. The power
to work miracles also was ascribed to St. David; he is said to have
healed all diseases, and even raised up the dead. Many other strange and
marvellous things are set down in the old chronicles as having been
accomplished by the saint.

It is impossible to believe all these tales, and what we actually know
to be true regarding St. David can be told in a few words. What is
certain is that he was a great preacher and organiser in the early
church, and his powers were so much approved that he was made Archbishop
of Wales, taking up his residence at St. David's. We have also been told
by the old chroniclers that he was a very good man, and this we can well
believe. One of his biographers says of him that he was a guide to the
religious, a life to the poor, a support to orphans, a protection to
widows, a father to the fatherless. He is said to have died in A.D.

Having been such a noble and good man the Welsh people have chosen to
make St. David their patron saint. On the first day of March, in every
year, they hold in remembrance the old preacher and teacher who lived so
long ago beside the little stream in Menevia. They also keep in
remembrance, by so doing, all that is good and noble in the history of
the Welsh race. That is surely a right thing to do. For although Wales
is now a part of Great Britain it has a history of its own, a language
of its own, and a literature of its own. It is well that these things
should be held in remembrance, both by the Welsh folk at home and those
who have travelled into far lands, and they set apart St. David's Day as
a special day for doing honour to all that is best in the ancient
history of their country. It is a happy custom, alike for old and


The national emblem of Ireland is a plant, the leaf of which has three
small leaflets. This is called the Shamrock. It is beloved by Irish
folks at all times, but most of them wear it conspicuously upon the 17th
day of March. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and that is
St. Patrick's Day. There are very good reasons why the Saint should be
honoured by Irishmen, yet it is a curious fact that he was not born in
Ireland. Indeed, there is some doubt regarding both the time and place
of his birth. Some people think that the Saint was born in France, while
others hold that his birthplace was at Kilpatrick, near Dunbarton, in

But this we know for certain that St. Patrick, when he was a lad of
sixteen years of age, was captured by pirates on his father's farm and
carried by them to Ireland, where he was sold into slavery. The Irish
Chief who bought the lad lived in County Antrim, near Sleamish
Mountain, and he employed Patrick in herding swine. All the people who
lived in that part of Ireland at this time--about the end of the 4th
century--were heathen. Now, young Patrick had been trained by his father
and grandfather in the Christian religion, and it made him very unhappy
to think that his master, and the people of Ireland, were ignorant of
the true faith; he was also unhappy when he thought of his home and his
friends. But after six years he escaped from slavery, and sailed away
from Ireland.

He went to another country, either Scotland or France, and there became
a priest and a preacher of the Christian religion. Patrick was very
successful, and after many years he was made a Bishop. But all this time
he kept in remembrance the people of Ireland who had never heard the
Gospel, and at last he determined to go and preach the good news in the
country where he had been a slave and a swineherd. He was sixty years of
age when he landed in Wicklow as the apostle of Christianity to Ireland,
but Patrick was a strong old man and he had great faith in his message.
Up and down the country he travelled converting the heathen Chiefs and
their followers. As many as 12,000 people were baptised with his own
hands, and by his efforts the Christian religion was firmly planted in
Ireland. A great many marvellous stories are told about the Saint. It is
said, for instance, that on one occasion he made a heap of snow-balls
blaze up into a fire by simply breathing upon them; and there is also
the well-known legend that he drove all the snakes from Ireland by the
beating of a drum. The year of his death is uncertain, but we know that
he must have been a very old man, and that he was buried at Downpatrick.

This is the man who is held in honour by Irishmen in all parts of the
world. On St. Patrick's Day they give themselves a holiday, and make
merry,--those of them, at least, who still remain in the old Catholic
Church. Surely that is well. For in honouring St. Patrick the Irish
people do honour to themselves, and to all that is noble and brave in
their long sad history.


He must have been a merry person who invented All Fools' Day, but no one
can tell when he lived, where he lived, or what was his name. All we
know about the matter is that the custom of fool-making upon the First
of April is very old, and that it prevails over nearly the whole of
Europe. Some people have tried to guess how this odd custom began, and
they have found its origin in one of the old Miracle Plays that used to
be played by the Monks in the Middle Ages at the Easter Festival. In
this play Christ was represented as being sent hither and thither from
one judge to another, from Annas to Caiaphas, and then from Pilate to
Herod. This explanation is doubtful; it is more likely that the custom
of fool-making had its origin in heathen times. In any case, it is a
merry custom; and as the joker and the fool have many sons and daughters
it is a custom that shall endure yet a while.

The great thing on the First of April is to have a good memory. Most
people know about April fooling, but many people forget about it when
the special day arrives. Some of you children, no doubt, have forgotten;
with the result that the joker with a good memory has made of you an
April Fool. In coming down to breakfast you have been asked quite
solemnly, let us say, why your hair is brushed to the wrong side. If you
have gone and peeped into a looking-glass there was an instant burst of
laughter, and then you have become aware that All Fools' Day has come
round again. Some boys and girls get angry when they have been thus
fooled; but that only adds to their foolishness. A good plan is to laugh
with those who are laughing; and you can better this plan by catching
the joker off his guard. By so doing you may, if you are clever at
keeping a solemn face, make a fool of the joker in his turn. Then the
laugh is with you, and you can feel quite pleased with yourself until
the next All Fools' Day.

This is the great festival of the Practical Joker, and all is well when
his jokes are simple and amusing. To pin a piece of paper on someone's
back, or to send the school Dunce into a bookseller's shop for a
"History of Adam's Grandfather," is quite good fun. But there are some
jokes which are carefully prepared in order to give pain to the persons
upon whom they are played; they are not amusing, but merely cruel. It is
not a good joke, for instance, to balance a bowl of water upon the top
of a door, so that the first person to enter the room gets drenched.
Neither is it nice fun to send an innocent boy upon an errand with a
letter containing the instruction: "Send the fool another mile." This
used to be a common form of April joke in Scotland, and it was not
unusual to keep the poor boy trudging long distances for the greater
part of the day. This is not fun, but a stupid form of cruelty; and of
much the same character as the hoax that is played upon tradesmen who
are asked to send goods to a particular house upon a particular morning.
It is only when the vans choke up the street from end to end that
someone remembers it is the First of April, and that the Practical
Joker--a stupid and heartless person in this case--has again been
exhibiting his foolishness.


In the New Testament you have it written that Jesus entered Jerusalem
for the last time riding on a colt, the foal of an ass. Two of his
disciples, acting upon the instructions of their Master, had entered a
village near the Mount of Olives, and there they found the colt by the
door without, in a place where two ways met. They unloosed the animal,
telling those that stood by and questioned them, that the Master had
need of him. Then they brought the colt to Jesus, who mounted upon its
back, after some of the disciples had spread their garments thereon. It
was thus that Jesus rode into Jerusalem to his death. And when the great
multitude of people who were gathered to the Passover saw him coming
they cut branches from the palm trees by the side of the way, and spread
them on the ground before Jesus, while they cried with joyful voices:
"Hosanna; blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord."

In this incident you have the origin of Palm Sunday. It is the first day
of Holy Week, the week which is dedicated by the Catholic Church to the
commemoration of the sufferings and death of Jesus. With the early
church throughout Europe it was the custom to lay the branches of a tree
upon the altar on this day, and as the palm tree does not grow in
Europe, the box, the yew, and especially the willow tree, were used
instead. The branches were blessed by the priest, sprinkled with holy
water, and then carried in procession through the town. As part of this
procession it was sometimes arranged to have a figure representing Jesus
sitting upon an ass--either a living figure or one made of wood, sitting
upon a wooden animal. This wooden effigy was drawn along upon wheels,
and the people in the street scattered the consecrated branches before
it. Flowers were sometimes used as well as the branches of trees.

It is a beautiful ceremony, this blessing of flowers and tree-branches
upon Palm Sunday in memory of Christ's entry into Jerusalem, and it is
one to interest all you children. But in the Middle Ages a great many
unworthy things, such as the selling of palm-branches in order to avert
diseases, became associated with Palm Sunday. Indeed, that whole week,
the week that should have been so solemn and sacred, was turned into an
occasion of feasting and frivolity. At the Reformation many of these
unworthy things were abolished, and the ceremonies in connection with
Palm Sunday were considerably modified here in England. Yet in some
parts of the country it is still a custom to go a-palming--that is to
say, to gather willow-branches--on the day before Palm Sunday.

With the Roman Catholic Church, however, and especially in the
ceremonies at Rome during Holy Week, an important place is given to Palm
Sunday. The officiating priest blesses the branches, which are then
distributed. In the solemn mass that follows, the people in the
congregation hold the branches in their hands to the end of the service.
In most cases these consecrated branches are taken home and preserved
during the year; then they are burned and the ashes used upon Ash


There is another day in Holy Week that has old and interesting
ceremonies connected with it. This is Maundy Thursday, which always
falls, of course, on the day before Good Friday. It is the day which is
set apart to commemorate the humility and tender loving-kindness of
Jesus during that week of his suffering and death. You remember that,
after the Master with his disciples, had partaken of supper in that
upper room in Jerusalem, He rose up and laid aside his garments. Then He
took a towel and girded himself. After that He poured water into a
basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the
towel wherewith He was girded. In this beautiful act of humility you
have the origin of Maundy Thursday; and its odd name is derived from the
circumstance that, in the Ancient Church, the anthem _Maudatum novum_
was sung at the ceremony.

For the Early Church consecrated this day to acts of lowliness in
imitation of Christ. The washing in public of the feet of the poor
became the outward sign of humility in the whole church. In later times
this washing was accompanied by gifts, and the ceremony was performed by
Kings and Queens. Thus we find, here in England, that Queen Elizabeth
performed the ceremony at her palace of Greenwich. The age of Her
Majesty being thirty-nine, there were thirty-nine poor people chosen to
assemble in her presence on Maundy Thursday. Then the yeomen of the
laundry, the sub-almoner, and finally the Queen herself, washed each
foot of the poor people in water mixed with sweet herbs, marked the sign
of the cross above the toes, and then kissed it. Afterwards various
gifts were distributed to these poor people in clothes, food, and money.
Since James II. no English monarch has performed this ceremony, but in
Spain and Austria the yearly foot-washing upon Holy Thursday is still
performed by the Head of the State.

In England the giving of gifts on Maundy Thursday has taken the place of
foot-washing. During the reign of George II. the old men and women who
gathered in the Banqueting House, at Whitehall, received half-quartern
loaves, boiled beef and mutton, herrings red and white, with small
bowls of ale. They were also given shoes and stockings, cloth to make
dresses, and a leathern bag filled with money. The money was in
silver-pieces, of the value of a penny and upwards; and these coins
being made at the Mint for this special purpose were called Maundy
Money. During the Reign of Queen Victoria the giving of meat and clothes
was discontinued, but the poor people still received their dole or

It is to be hoped that King Edward VII. will continue this practice
for--unlike some of the old customs--it is well worthy of being
continued. Most people are inclined to be proud, and when people are
proud they are usually greedy and selfish. Therefore, it is a good thing
to have at least one day in the year set apart to help us to remember
that true greatness, the greatness which Jesus Christ expects from his
disciples, is only to be attained by lowliness and unselfishness.


Good Friday is the Friday before Easter, and by the Christian Church it
is regarded as one of the most sacred days in the whole year. From a
very early time it was regarded, in a special degree, as a day of
fasting and mourning, because upon this Holy Friday the crucifixion of
Jesus is commemorated. In the Church of England before the Reformation,
and in the Roman Catholic Church still, the church service upon Good
Friday is peculiar. Everything is made to appear mournful. The priests
are dressed in black, at the elevation of the Host a wooden clapper is
used instead of a bell, all the glittering ornaments are removed from
the altar, and the music is more than usually sad.

But even more strange than that is the chief ceremony. In old times, it
used to be that the priests had a figure of Christ fixed to a crucifix
which they carried round the church, treated with great reverence, and
ultimately buried solemnly by torchlight. Nowadays, this ceremony has
been somewhat changed. On Good Friday the crucifix, in the Roman
Catholic Church, is placed before the altar. Then the priests, followed
by the whole congregation, approach the figure upon the crucifix
creeping upon their knees, and reverently kiss its feet. This ceremony,
and the chanting of the _Miserere_, have a very solemnizing effect upon
all who are present.

Long ago, here in England, there was an odd ceremony performed by the
King upon Good Friday. This was called Blessing the Cramp-rings. The
ceremony is said to have originated in a wonderful ring, presented by a
pilgrim to Edward the Confessor, and long used in Westminster Abbey as a
cure for falling-sickness and cramp. On Good Friday the King of England
used to go in state to his private chapel, and creep humbly upon his
knees towards the crucifix. Following him came the King's Almoner with a
silver basin in which were a number of gold or silver rings, and these
rings the King blessed. Thereafter, they were given away to be used as
an unfailing cure for cramp and epilepsy. In those days everybody
believed that cramp-rings had the power to cure cramp, and in England
to-day there are still a few people who so believe.

You children, however, do not think of rings upon Good Friday; it is
much better to think of hot cross buns. If you ask how it is that buns
came to be eaten on this day I cannot answer. All that can be said is
that bread, in one or another form, has always formed part of religious
observances; and it may be that the spicy buns which you eat on Good
Friday are connected with a religion that is older than Christianity.
All things change, you know, and even the desire for hot cross buns is
not so great as it used to be when people struggled in crowds at the
doors of the famous Chelsea bun-houses. On Good Friday we do not so
often hear the cry:

    One a penny, buns,
    Two a penny, buns,
    One a penny, two a penny,
    Hot cross buns!


On Good Friday the death of Jesus is commemorated, and that being so it
is a day of gloom and sadness. On Easter Sunday the rising of Jesus from
the dead is commemorated, and that being so it is regarded by the
Christian Church as a day of great joy. In the old times, indeed, it was
called the Sunday of Joy, and in the Eastern world it is still called
the Bright Day. When friends met each other upon Easter Sunday the
favourite salutation used to be: "He is risen," and to this was given
the reply: "Verily he is risen." Everywhere there was happiness, and
this happiness was shown in many ways. At Easter slaves used to receive
their freedom, while at the present day, in Russia, birds that have been
shut up in a cage have their cage-doors opened, and are permitted to fly
away. That is a beautiful custom; an emblem of the freedom that Jesus
brought to the world when he broke the power of Death in rising from the
grave. In England this happiness is expressed in a practical manner by
many marriages at Eastertide.

Easter Sunday is what is called a movable feast; it is not held each
year upon the same day of the month. The rule is, that Easter Sunday is
always the first Sunday after the full moon that happens upon, or next
after, the 21st of March; and if the full moon happens upon a Sunday,
Easter Day is the Sunday after. As regards the name "Easter," it is very
likely derived from an old Saxon deity called Eastre; for when the
Christian religion was first preached to the heathen the missionaries
often took an old heathen festival and turned it into a new Christian
festival. Now, in the ancient heathen world there was always great joy
and feasting in the spring-time when the sun began to rise higher and
higher in the heavens, and there is little doubt that the early
missionaries, when they converted the heathen, gave a new meaning to the
old joy. Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, had risen from the dead; that
was the new gladness.

But Christianity did not quite remove all the rites and ceremonies of
the heathen worship; some of them, indeed, linger to this day. The
ceremonies connected with fire, for instance, were very prominent in
the heathen ritual, and in some parts of Europe bonfires are lit at
Easter, while in the Roman Catholic Church great importance is given to
the lighting of candles and tapers. Then again, there are the Pasch or
Easter eggs--boiled hard and dyed in various colours--which are so
interesting to children. This name of Pasch is derived from the Jewish
festival of the Passover, and the egg we now regard as an emblem of the
resurrection; but all the old peoples of the world looked upon the egg
as a symbol of new life coming forth with blessing. It was, in some
respects, a sacred thing in the old heathen world of the Egyptians and
Persians; while here in this country the Easter eggs used to be blessed
by the priests at the altar, and kept all the year as a charm against
various ailments. Is it not curious to think, children, how races and
religions have come to be linked together by small things? These
coloured eggs which please you so much at Easter link you with strange
old peoples and their strange old customs.


On the back of some old English coins you will find the figure of a
warrior on horseback, and in his hand a long spear with which he is
slaying a dragon. That figure with the helmet and spear is St. George,
the patron saint of England, and the patron saint of all that is
chivalrous in Christianity. Regarding this hero and martyr we know very
little; and indeed there are two men who have claims to be regarded as
St. George. The most noble of these, and probably the true saint, was
born of Christian parents in Cappadocia, became a warrior prince, and
having testified for the Christian faith, was put to death at Nicomedia
on April 23rd, 303 A.D., by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. From this
time, and for that reason, he was venerated by all the Christian
Churches, until about the year 494 A.D. George of Cappadocia was
formally made a saint by Pope Gelasius.

A great many legends have gathered round the name of St. George. The
most famous of these, of course, is the story of how this Christian
warrior slew a dragon that was about to kill and devour a young girl.
With heavy labour, and at great risk to himself St. George is said to
have rescued the maiden and destroyed the dragon. It is a very
interesting adventure, but unfortunately it cannot be accepted as
literally true. In these old days it was quite common to attribute to
brave men the slaying of a dragon, and that St. George was the bravest
of the brave we need not doubt. There is also no doubt that, as a
Christian warrior, he fought against all that was sly, cruel and
ravenous--these being the evil characteristics of a dragon.

Several nations adopted St. George as their patron saint, for his
bravery was known all over Christendom, and he was specially honoured
during the Crusades. It was in England, however, that the saint was held
in highest esteem. In 1222 A.D. the 23rd April became a great national
festival by order of the Council of Oxford; while in the reign of Edward
III. the famous Order of St. George, or the Blue Garter, was instituted.
This is an Order of Knighthood, and when it was formed there was a great
tournament in which forty of the stoutest and bravest of England's
knights held the field against all the foreign knights who had been
summoned to enter the contest. This Order of St. George, better known as
the Order of the Garter, still exists, and its motto is still the same:
_Honi soit qui mal y pense_.

In recent times St. George's Day has not been generously honoured by the
English people. This is, indeed, a very great pity, because the saint is
closely linked with English history; because his emblem--the red cross
on a white ground--is to be seen wherever the British flag flies; and
because he represents all that is best and bravest in the English
character. "God and St. George"; "Saint George and Merrie
England"--these were the stout battle cries which led on to victory when
the foundations of the British Empire were laid. He is a good patriot,
therefore, who remembers St. George's Day.


If there is one month in the year that is more joyful than another it is
the month of May--the merry month of May. And it is not difficult to
understand why it should be so. In Europe it is the month when nature
out-of-doors awakens into life; when leaves appear upon the trees; when
flowers in profusion peep from among the grass; when the little birds in
lane and woodland sing their sweetest. Nature is joyously astir; and in
the sunshine of the open sky all people, especially young people, find
it good to be alive. That is the reason why May is the merry month. It
is Nature's holiday time; the time when she calls upon all folk who are
weary of winter and rough weather, to come out of their stuffy houses
and enjoy themselves for a little in green places, under the blue tent
of the sky.

It is the sun that brings all this new life and gladness as it goes
higher in the heavens and shines brighter. So it happened that the
ancient inhabitants of these islands, not knowing any better, held a
great festival on the First of May to the praise and glory of the
sun-god. A relic of this worship lingered until recently in the Beltane
fires that were lit on the high hills of Scotland and Ireland. It was
the same with the old Romans. They had a goddess of flowers called
Flora, and about the beginning of May they held a festival in her
honour. The houses were decked with garlands, there was much feasting
and dancing out-of-doors, and at these feasts the goddess herself was
represented by a beautiful maiden crowned with flowers.

There is reason to think that some of our May Day customs were derived
from these ancient peoples. In any case, it has always been a joyful day
in England, especially in the ancient times before the Puritans
abolished May-poles and merry-making. Not only the citizens of London,
but also the lords and ladies of the Court, used to go out to the woods
around the city--it was a very much smaller city then--and gather
hawthorn blossom. This they called going a-Maying, and the flower of the
hawthorn came to be called May-blossom. It was brought into hamlet,
town, and city with great rejoicing, and to the sound of music.

Then the whole day thereafter was spent in merry-making. In every town
and village there was a tall pole fixed, called a May-pole; and on May
Day this pole, the centre of all the frolic, was made gay with great
garlands of flowers. Every town and village, also, had a Queen of the
May, a maiden who was chosen for her beauty, and who sat apart crowned
with flowers, an object of envy and admiration. The lads and lassies
sang carols, played at such games as kiss-in-the-ring, and danced the
morris dance. Not many of these customs now remain; the May-poles have
disappeared; and very few of you children, I suppose, go a-Maying. Do
you not think that is a mistake? I do; the work-a-day world is not such
a mirthful place that we can afford to forget the cheery old customs,
and there are surely many worse ways of spending a day than in dancing
round a May-pole. I am sure that you children would like to have the
merry-making of May Day brought back again.


In your English history-book you will find some account of Oliver
Cromwell and the many battles he fought against the royal house of
Stuart and the cavaliers. One of the most famous of these was the battle
of Worcester, fought near the town of that name on the 3rd September,
1651, in which the army of King Charles II. was utterly defeated. As the
result of this defeat by Cromwell, all the followers of the King were
placed in danger, and the King's life was in great jeopardy. The only
thing he could do was to flee out of England, but that was no easy
matter because his enemies were numerous, and they searched for him with
great diligence. His first plan was to try to reach London before the
news of his defeat, and by proceeding from there in disguise he hoped to
get a ship on the south coast that would carry him to France. This plan
was in part successful, but before he embarked at Shoreham, near
Brighton, the fugitive king had many strange adventures and hair-breadth

One of the most notable of these was connected with a large country
house called Boscobel, situated in Shropshire, and about thirty-seven
miles from Worcester, where the great battle was fought. In fleeing
northward after the fight Charles was accompanied by many of his
followers, but in order to give him a better chance to escape the king
was advised to leave all the others and make his way to Boscobel where
the folk were all friendly. This he did, with trusty Richard Penderel
for his guide; and as the house was a lonely place set among woods, the
king hoped that he would not be disturbed. But the pursuit after him was
very hot, and the soldiers of Cromwell arrived in the neighbourhood. So
the king had to seek a hiding-place somewhere out of doors, and one of
his friends, Colonel William Careless, suggested that they should
conceal themselves among the branches of a large bushy oak-tree that
stood near the house. There the two remained for a whole day, with
little to eat except bread and cheese, and with the constant fear of
being discovered. From where they sat among the branches they could peep
through the leaves and see the soldiers searching the woods around. But
they were not discovered, and at length the king escaped from that
neighbourhood dressed like a countryman in leathern doublet and green

After many years, as you all know, the man who hid in the oak-tree was
invited to return to England, where he reigned as Charles II. It was on
the 29th May, 1660, and the king's thirtieth birthday, that he entered
London in triumph. The story of his adventure in the oak-tree having
become known, garlands of oak-branches, and the Royal Oak used as a
symbol, were prominent in the coronation ceremonies; while from
thenceforth the 29th May was established as Royal Oak Day, or Oak-Apple
Day. During the Restoration Period, and for long afterwards, it was the
custom to go forth into the woods on the morning of that day and gather
branches of oak. In town and village the houses were decorated with the
woodland spoil, and thus did the people of England exhibit their loyalty
to the House of Stuart. Even now the old custom lingers in
out-of-the-way hamlets, and the sign of the Royal Oak may still be seen
on many an old inn, but the oak-leaf and the acorn have lost all their
significance in the world of politics. Oak-Apple Day, I fear, will never
again become a general holiday.


Midsummer Day is the 24th June; this is also the day upon which the
birth of St. John the Baptist is celebrated by the Christian Church.
During the Middle Ages it was a joyous time of feast and merry-making,
for in these old times, as you must have gathered from this little book,
people did not work and worry so much as they do nowadays. But here is a
curious thing: nearly all the ceremonies connected with this holiday
were performed the night previous--variously called Midsummer's Eve, or
St. John's Eve. These customs and ceremonies were observed in various
forms throughout Christendom, and some of them were very strange. I have
often had to tell you that many of our holiday practices and usages were
founded upon ancient heathen rites and ceremonies; this is perhaps more
observable in connection with Midsummer Eve than upon any other holiday

Flowers and fire were two things that became of great importance on
Midsummer's Eve. Nearly every town and village had its bonfire lit in
the market-place, and at one time these fires were formally blessed by
the priests of the church. One practice connected with these fires, a
practice that carries us far back into heathen times, was the way in
which the boys and girls leaped through and over the flames. It was also
customary to fling flowers and garlands into the fires, while the
people, young and old, circled round the blaze with merry antics and
gleeful songs. Great processions were also formed to visit the woods and
bring back green boughs wherewith to decorate the houses on St. John's
Eve. The boughs were hung round doors and windows with joyful shoutings,
in recognition of the prophecy that many would rejoice at the birth of
John the Baptist.

Midsummer's Eve was regarded as a time when the strangest things might
easily happen. That is probably the reason why Shakspere called his play
"A Midsummer Day's Dream," and make Puck and the other fairies play such
pranks with the mortals that they found wandering out-of-doors. It used
to be a common belief in Ireland, and the superstition still lingers,
that on this night the souls of all sleeping people left their bodies,
and went wandering into strange places, sometimes never to return. To
avoid this dangerous possibility it was usual to keep awake during that
night. But to keep watch did not always prevent the watcher from having
gruesome experiences. In England it was quite a prevalent opinion that
if you sat in the church porch all St. John's Eve you would see the
spirits of those who were soon to die in the parish come and knock at
the church door.

There were various other superstitious practices and beliefs associated
with Midsummer's Eve--most of them weird and heathenish--which you will
read about when you grow older. They belong to a time when people were
very ignorant, and therefore very credulous. Happily, we are forgetting
all these foolish beliefs; and for my part I find Midsummer's Eve
interesting and beautiful because the light is slow to fade from the
sky, because the wild roses make a pleasant scent in the lanes, and
because the nightingale from the copsewood brims the darkness with
melodious joy.


In Europe there are various saints who are supposed to have had some
influence upon the weather; France has its St. Médard, and England has
its St. Swithin. Our actual knowledge of this old English saint is very
scanty, and the grounds upon which he has been associated with dry and
wet weather are of dubious origin. We are told that St. Swithin was a
monk in the Old Abbey of Winchester, and that because of his zeal he
became prior and then bishop of that See. We are told, also, that he
erected numerous churches, while his piety and learning were such that
Egbert, King of Wessex, gave him his son and successor to educate. As
was usual with good men in those days, many miraculous deeds were
attributed to St. Swithin, and finally he died in the year 862 A.D. He
was buried in the churchyard at Winchester, in a humble spot of his own

More than a hundred years afterwards the clergy of the diocese of
Winchester thought that the Saint deserved more honour than a grave
under the dripping eaves of the Cathedral. Accordingly, they arranged to
remove the body inside with great ceremony, and the date selected for
this event was the 15th July. Thereafter this day was regarded as St.
Swithin's Day because, if we are to believe popular legend, he objected
to have his body removed from the humble place in the graveyard chosen
by himself. In order to give outward and visible sign of his displeasure
violent rains descended on that 15th of July, and the torrent continued
for forty days, so that the ceremony of removing the Saint's body was
delayed, while the clergy of the diocese were thus rebuked for their
presumption. Hence there grew up the popular belief which finds
expression in the old rhyme:

    St. Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain,
    For forty days it will remain:
    St. Swithin's Day, if thou be fair,
    For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.

There is, of course, no truth in this old adage, although there are some
people who still profess to believe in it. The men whose business it is
to watch the weather day by day and write down all they observe, will
tell you that it does not matter in the least, as far as the rain of the
following forty days is concerned, whether it is wet or dry on the 15th
July. It is even very doubtful whether the ceremony of removing the
Saint's body was marked by any special downpour of rain; the fact is not
mentioned by the chroniclers of that time. Like many other things
connected with holidays and holy days this legend regarding St. Swithin
has its origin, probably in the heathen times that preceded
Christianity. That would account, at least, for the curious fact that
there are several rainy Saints in Europe.


The 29th September is dedicated as a feast day in the Christian Church
to St. Michael and All Angels. In the Bible the Angel Michael is
mentioned several times, and always as a fighter, especially against
Satan. Thus you find it stated in the Epistle of Jude that Michael the
Archangel contended with the Devil regarding the body of Moses. In the
book of the Revelation of St. John, again, you will find it written that
there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the
dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither
was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast
out, that old Serpent, called the Devil. He was cast out into the earth,
and his angels were cast out with him.

You will gather from this that St. Michael always appears in the
character of a warrior; and as the Christian Church accomplished a great
deal of fighting, especially during the time of the crusades, it can
easily be understood that the warlike Archangel was popular. In old
pictures he is usually represented in a coat of mail, and with a short
spear in his hand, hurling Satan downwards to the earth. John Milton, in
his "Paradise Lost," makes full use of this conception of the Archangel,
only that he puts a great and marvellous sword into his hand:

                                "The sword
    Of Michael from the armoury of God
    Was given him tempered so, that neither keen
    Nor solid might resist that edge; it met
    The sword of Satan, with steep force to smite
    Descending, and in half cut sheer; nor stayed,
    But, with swift wheel reverse, deep entering shared
    All his right side: Then Satan first knew pain."

In old times it was usual to have a saint or an angel for one's
guardian, and as Michael, according to the Church, was both of these he
was popular as a heavenly protector. But an earthly protector was also
required, and thus it came about--whether by accident or intentionally I
cannot tell--that magistrates were chosen upon Michaelmas Day. Thus you
find that the Lord Mayor of London is elected on the 29th of September.
This day is also one of the four quarterly terms; the day upon which
many people pay their rent; and not always, therefore, a day of joy. In
old times when the farmer took his rent to the lord of the manor it was
usual for him to carry a fat goose in his hand as a present. From this
practice it has established itself as a custom to have a goose for
dinner on Michaelmas Day; another good reason is that geese, when fed
upon the chance grain of autumn's stubbled fields, are always at their
fattest and best. It is curious to note, how that, although a holy day
or a holiday may have begun with the adoration of saint or angel, it
usually survives for us in some form of eating. But you children, I am
sure, do not object.


The night of the 31st October has a character peculiar to itself, and to
you children it has some ceremonies that possess special interest. In
England it is known as All Hallow's Eve; while in Scotland, where its
customs are most varied and remarkable, it is known as Halloween. It is
the Eve of All Saints' Day, but there is little or nothing connected
with the popular practices of that night that suggest Christianity. On
the contrary, they suggest some old pagan worship and a mysterious
impish world that holds high carnival for that one night. Many of the
customs and rites connected with this revel--described vividly and
amusingly by Robert Burns in "Halloween"--are not known to the Scots
people of the present day; but some few of them are still practised,
even in England.

Nuts and apples become of great importance upon All Hallow's Eve. The
nuts are not for eating--although that were probably a wise use to
which to put them--but to play a mysterious part in deciding the fate of
lovers. For this purpose two nuts are dropped into a bright red fire,
side by side, and the name of the lad and lass, whose fates are to be
decided, is given to each nut. The nuts themselves give the decision. If
they burn quietly together then all is well; but on the other hand, if
the nuts (or one of them) jump out of the fire, then things will go ill
with the two lovers. Here is how Burns describes the practice:

    "The auld guidwife's weel-hoordet nits
      Are round and round devided,
    And mony lads and lasses fates
      Are there that night decided:
    Some kindle, couthie, side by side,
      And burn together trimly;
    Some start awa, with saucy pride,
      And jump out ower the chimlie
                    Full high that night."

Apples have a quite different use. On Halloween they are placed in large
quantities in a big tub nearly full of water. The apples are then
stirred round vigorously, while the boys and girls, each in turn, try to
snatch an apple from the water, not using their hands, but their teeth
alone. Sometimes one has to dip one's head right down to the bottom of
the tub in chase of a big apple, and that is rather a chilly experience,
as I am able to testify. The modern plan of dropping a fork into the
tub, over the back of a chair, may spoil, just a little, the apples that
are impaled, but it is a good preventitive of a cold in the head--the
usual result of ducking for apples.

There are many other customs connected with Halloween, some of them
mysterious and uncanny, which you will learn by and bye. But these two,
the burning of nuts and the hunting of apples will do you no possible
harm. On the contrary, where there is a lot of you children present,
they will give much innocent fun and laughter.


There is another name for this day; it is sometimes called Gunpowder
Plot Day, and that name informs us how it happened that the 5th November
became famous in English history. That was the day upon which a few
Catholic gentlemen, over-zealous for their religion, determined to
destroy King James I., and the Houses of Lords and Commons, by means of
gunpowder. It was a gentleman named Catesby who conceived this murderous
plot, and he was joined by several other conspirators. The most famous
of these, although he can scarcely be regarded as the most guilty, was a
gentleman called Guy Fawkes who had fought bravely with the Spanish army
in Flanders. He was brought over to England in order to carry out the
plot, and like all the other conspirators he took a vow of secrecy.

In itself the plot was very simple. The conspirators hired a house near
to the building where Parliament met, and their intention was to dig an
underground passage-way between the two buildings, and to prepare under
Parliament House a large mine charged with gunpowder. They found
difficulties, however, in carrying out this scheme, chief of these being
the thickness of the wall through which they had to pierce. Eventually,
the digging of this underground passage-way was abandoned, because the
conspirators found that they could hire a cellar right under the House
of Lords. This would be far more convenient, they thought; so they hired
it from a coal-dealer, and put thirty-six barrels of gunpowder into it.
The barrels were carefully covered with faggots, and in the month of
May, 1605, all was ready to blow the King and his Parliament into the

But Parliament did not meet until the 5th November, and by that time the
secret had leaked out. There have been great differences of opinion
regarding the manner in which the plot was revealed. It appears,
however, that a mysterious letter was sent by Mr. Francis Tresham, one
of the conspirators, to his brother-in-law Lord Monteagle, warning him
regarding the coming disaster. This letter is said to have led to a
search in the cellars under Parliament House, but it is quite probable
that the plot was revealed in a more direct manner. In any case, the
gunpowder was discovered in the cellar, and beside it was Guy Fawkes. He
was arrested on the early morning of the 5th November by a Westminster
magistrate and a party of soldiers. When the other conspirators heard
that the plot had failed they fled into the country, but the most of
them were captured, tried for high treason along with Guy Fawkes, and
with him were hanged as traitors in St. Paul's Churchyard.

For many years after this plot was discovered the 5th day of November
was kept as a national holiday, and the people expressed their
patriotism and their Protestantism in huge bonfires, with shoutings and
the ringing of bells. Also, it was regarded as the proper thing on this
day to parade a scarecrow effigy of Guy Fawkes, which was finally burned
as a warning to traitors. Now the day is only remembered by boys who are
bent upon a frolic, for this old rhyme has lost much of its

    Remember, remember!
    The fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder treason and plot;
    There is no reason
    Why the Gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot!


In London the 9th of November has been regarded, for many centuries, as
a day of special importance. It is Lord Mayor's Day. That is to say, the
new Lord Mayor of the City of London, who was elected by the freemen of
the City Guilds on Michaelmas Day, goes in his state coach to the Law
Courts to be "sworn into" office by His Majesty's judges. Until recent
times the Law Courts were situated at Westminster, and in old
Westminster Hall some of the greatest trials in English history took
place,--such as the trials of Lord Cobham, Strafford, and Warren
Hastings. Now the Law Courts are situated in the Strand, near to the
spot where stood Temple Bar.

The Lord Mayor of London has still a certain amount of authority within
the City bounds, but nothing like what he used to possess. At one time,
indeed, in his capacity of Head of all the great trade guilds, he was
more powerful than any of the king's nobles, and in London he
exercised almost as much authority as the king himself. From this you
will understand that when he, in the old times, journeyed from the City
of London to the City of Westminster it was a great occasion, because
the Lord Mayor was in truth a great man. The stately pageants wended to
Westminster on Lord Mayor's Day both by coach and water-barge;
glittering pageants that had a real significance. In many cases they
were devised by clever play-wrights, and their glories recorded in the
verses of the poet laureates.

In the year 1616 Sir John Leman, of the Fishmongers' Company, was Lord
Mayor, and part of his pageant was a fishing-boat with fishermen drawing
up their nets laden with living fish which they distributed among the
people. This boat, set upon a wheeled stage, was followed by a dolphin
with a youth on its back; then the King of the Moors, with six tributary
kings on horseback; then a lemon-tree (the Mayor's name was Leman) laden
with fruit and flowers; then a bower adorned with the names and arms of
all members of the Fishmongers' Company; then an armed officer, with a
representation of the head of Wat Tyler; lastly there was a great car
drawn by mermen and mermaids, and on the top of it was a victorious
angel, with a representation of King Richard surrounded by figures that
symbolized all the royal virtues.

Some of the Lord Mayor's pageants were even more splendid than this one.
Gilded chariots, giants, bowers wreathed with flowers, men in armour,
full-rigged ships, satyrs, bannermen--these things, and many other
fanciful contrivances, found a place in the Lord Mayor's procession. And
this procession still forms a part of London life, but it has lost all
its significance; and a great deal of its interest, even as a show. On
the 9th day of each November the Lord Mayor's gilded coach, with a few
mounted soldiers, the heralds, the aldermen in coaches, the City
firemen, and a few symbolical cars block the traffic of London from east
to west. It is not an occasion of great historical interest, yet it
still draws great crowds, for your true Londoner loves a procession that
goes to the sound of brazen music. The Lord Mayor's Show is also--just
like a circus procession--beloved of all boys and girls.


In this little book you have already been presented to three patron
saints. There was St. David, the patron saint of Wales; St. Patrick, the
patron saint of Ireland; and St. George, the patron saint of England.
Now we come to St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, who is honoured
by Scotsmen on the 30th November in each year. The first mention of this
Saint is in the New Testament where he, with his brother Simon Peter,
became a disciple of Christ, after having been a disciple of John the
Baptist. After the death of Christ this first disciple of his became a
missionary in many lands. From tradition we learn that St. Andrew
travelled and preached the gospel in Scythia, Thrace and Asia Minor.
Finally, we are told that he suffered martyrdom for the Christian faith
at Patræ, in Achaia. The cross on which he died was in the form of an X,
and that is now known as the St. Andrew's cross.

But how did this Saint come to be connected with Scotland? Well, the
story told is this: There was once a monk who lived in the fourth
century called Regulus, or Rule, who brought the bones of St. Andrew
from Constantinople--where they had been deposited in a church by the
Emperor Constantine--and buried them near the sea on the east coast of
Scotland. There he built a church, and round the church there gradually
gathered a little hamlet. In course of time, the hamlet became a City
with a cathedral and a university, and in your geography books you will
find it called St Andrews. I am not sure that I can ask you to believe
all this story, for it is only a monkish legend. But at least part of it
is true. If there was no such monk as Regulus, there is certainly a very
pleasant city called St. Andrews, in which there is a building called
St. Rule's Tower.

Here is another sure thing that I can tell you. There is an Order of
Knighthood called the Order of St. Andrew, although it is more often
called the Order of the Thistle. It was created by James II. in 1687,
and it includes the King and sixteen knights. The insignia of the Order
consists of a gold collar composed of thistles interlaced with red; the
jewel is a figure of St. Andrew in the middle of a star of eight
pointed rays; and the motto of the Order is _Nemo me impune lacessit_.
This is a motto which Scotsmen carry with them all over the world.

All over the world, also, Scotsmen keep in remembrance two days; and on
these days they meet together to express love of the old home. One of
these days is the 30th November--St. Andrew's Day. Curiously enough, it
is not a holiday in Scotland, nor do the people there hold it much in
remembrance. But when a Scotsman goes into a strange country--though it
be no further than London--he begins to think a very great deal of his
homeland, and all the ill things he said of it when he lived there are
quickly forgotten. Bleak and barren it may have been to them once, but
when Scotsmen meet on St. Andrew's Day, or on the birthday of Robert
Burns, they discover that Scotland is the most lovely country in the
world. This is just as it should be. I hope that all you children,
wherever you may travel, will keep a great love for the land where you
were born.


Of all nights of the year there is not one that is more anxiously
awaited by young people than the night that precedes Christmas. Then
begins the great festival of the year; the festival in honour of the
birth of Christ; the festival that reminds us of the Child born in a
manger, of the shepherds near Bethlehem watching their flocks by night,
and of the angels that sang of peace and goodwill to men. It is the most
joyous of all holiday seasons; prepared for long before, and remembered
pleasantly long afterwards. This is true of England to-day, and it was
even more true of the England of the olden times--as you will find if
you read Sir Walter Scott's poem of _Marmion_:

    "England was merry England, when
    Old Christmas brought his sports again.
    'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale;
    'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
    A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
    The poor man's heart through half the year."

At midnight on Christmas Eve the bells are rung, and in Roman Catholic
churches the first of the three masses is celebrated,--Christ's masses.
But although this is a Christian festival there are curious customs
observed which take us back into the old heathen world. There is the
miseltoe bough, for instance, which you hang up in the hall; and there
is the Yule log. The old Druids had a feast at this season--the time of
the winter solstice--when the chief Druid cut the miseltoe from the
oak-tree, where it grew, and divided it among the people, who hung it up
over their doorways as a charm to bring good-fortune. Then, again, the
Yule log is a relic of the ceremony in which the Norsemen lighted great
bonfires in honour of their gods. To bring home the Yule log on
Christmas Eve is not so common as it used to be, but it deserves to be
remembered as one of the most joyous of old English customs.

So, also, are the carols, the waits, the mummers, and the games of
Christmas time. Some of these games and mummeries were a little too
boisterous for our modern taste, probably because they had their origin
in the heathen Saturnalia of old Rome. But we still love to hear the
waits tuning up on a clear frosty night, the game of snap-dragon is
still a noisy joy, and the carol-singers are still welcome. I am sure
you like that old carol which begins:

    "God rest you merry, gentlemen,
      Let nothing you dismay
    For Jesus Christ our Saviour
      Was born upon this day
    To save us all from Satan's power
      When we were gone astray."

But probably the best thing you children like about Christmas Eve is the
ceremony of hanging up your stockings in expectation of all the things
that are to come to you from the wallet of Santa Claus. That is the
great event. Some of you, I believe, try to lie awake until Santa Claus
comes with the fruit and the toys. But that is never a success. All the
best gifts come to us when we do not peep and watch.


On Christmas Day, in most households, the children are the first to make
themselves heard. There are shouts of wonder and glee from the nursery
bedrooms when it is discovered that Santa Claus has actually paid his
long-talked-about visit, and that he has brought in his wallet just the
things that were desired. The shouts of one awakens all the others, and
the chatter is great as the children rush about displaying their
new-found treasures to one another. This morning the nursery rules are
disregarded, because Christmas comes but once a year. Children are
permitted to run upstairs and downstairs in their night garments; to
skip about and laugh and chatter; and even to appear late at the
breakfast table. It is more than likely, indeed, that the breakfast
itself will be late, for the grown-ups in most households are usually as
excited as the children. But it is Christmas Day, a day of joy for
everybody. All the old stiff rules are relaxed for this happiest day of
all the year.

Yet the church must not be neglected, nor must it be forgotten that
Christmas is a sacred festival. To do honour to the Babe Jesus that was
born in a manger at Bethlehem--that is the real meaning of the gladness
of Christmas Day. So all you children should love to go to the church in
the forenoon. It will be pleasant for you in many ways, especially if
the air is clear, with a touch of frost in it, and the winter sun
shining brightly. In any case you will find that the service in church,
like the church itself, is brighter on Christmas Day than at ordinary
times. You will like to see the old church trimmed up with holly and
holly-berries; you will join in the cheerful Christmas hymns with more
than your usual heartiness. It will be pleasant for you to think that
all over the world, men and women of every nation are doing honour to
One who was once a child like yourselves.

Then it is home to dinner, a real Christmas Dinner. I do not suppose
that you will dine with a boar's head on the table, or that you will be
permitted to taste a peacock stuffed with spices and sweet herbs. These
were two of the dishes that figured in the good old times, but they
have long been discarded. Yet the Christmas goose is still popular, and
in almost equal favour is the roast beef of Old England. With you
children, however, the plum-pudding and the mince pies and the fruit
will be in most demand. How many helpings? I dare not say how many, for
Christmas Day brings its own appetite, but you must try--just a very
little--not to be greedy when the pudding comes in ablaze.

Because greediness is ugly, and also because Christmas does not end with
dinner-time. There is the evening with its romps, its games, its dances
and its Christmas Tree. It is the Christmas Tree, probably, that will
give you most pleasure, with all its glittering ornaments, its coloured
flags, and its lighted candles. This is a pleasure which English
children, in the old times, did not share, because the Christmas Tree
for children was only introduced to this country in the reign of Queen
Victoria. Indeed, the whole tendency nowadays is to make of Christmas a
children's holiday. This is well; because by so doing--by making the
lives of all children, and especially all poor children, brighter at
this season--we shall give most honour and praise to the Babe that was
born in lowly Bethlehem.


When people are in a good humour--and everybody is supposed to be in a
good humour at Christmas--they find it easy to give little gifts to
their relations, friends, children and servants. On Christmas Day these
gifts are given to friends and the children of the household, but on the
day after Christmas the servants and dependents obtain their share of
the gifts in what is called a Christmas Box. Hence the 26th December has
come to be recognized as Boxing Day. This is a very old custom, and
probably it has its origin in certain customs that were observed by the
Romans during the Saturnalia. At that season presents were distributed
to all, and for one day, at least, the Roman slaves received the gift of
freedom. That was a good custom.

It was wise for the early Christian Church to adopt this method of
giving presents at Christmastide, but the custom has lost some of its
wisdom by use. The art of giving wisely is a very difficult art;
almost as difficult as the art of receiving wisely. At Christmas time
this becomes very plain to us, and it is especially obvious to us on
Boxing Day. Many of the gifts bestowed on that day are bestowed with a
grudge, and received as a matter of right. That is not as it should be,
for all pleasure is lost when a gift is bestowed in a stingy spirit, and
taken with a thankless hand. I feel sure that you children do not give
or receive your Christmas boxes in that manner. If you have any little
gift to bestow upon the people who do you a service throughout the year,
you will do it cheerfully. And if any one gives you a little gift, do
not turn it over and over looking at all sides, but accept it with
thankfulness and a cheerful countenance. By so doing you will find that
Boxing Day is one of the most pleasant days in all the year.

For a London child there is an interesting event that always happens on
the 26th December. The pantomimes begin upon Boxing Day. Your old
friends the Harlequin, the Clown, the Pantaloon bounce upon the stage
with all their old antics and most of their old jokes. But the more
ancient the jokes are, I think you like them the better. When I was a
boy I liked to see the Clown play tricks upon the policeman, and startle
innocent people with a red-hot poker. I am sure that you feel just like
that to-day, and that you laugh as heartily as I did. There is nothing
better than laughter; and throughout England, in every playhouse, a
great tide of laughter begins upon Boxing Day.

And now we have reached almost the last day of the year, and quite the
last page of this little book. Since New Year's Day we have travelled
together, and I have tried to explain to you the meaning of the various
Holy Days and Holidays. I have tried to make the explanations
interesting, and not exactly like the dull books that grown-ups read.
But I am not sure that I have succeeded; holidays are stupid things when
they are set down in print. It is far better to take them just as they
come along, and enjoy the good things they bring. Holidays are like the
pictures in a dry book. When I was a boy I sometimes skipped the reading
and enjoyed the pictures. You can skip the reading in this book if you


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