Well it is either a few days early or four hundred years too late, anyway here is my old friend Nicholas Breton on Christmas.
by Nicholas Breton
It is now Christmas and not a Cup of drinke must passe without a carol, the Beastes, Fowle and Fish, come to a general execution, and the Corne is ground to dust for the Bakehouse, and the Pastry: Cards and Dice purge many a purse, and the youth shew their agility in shooing of the wild Mare: now good cheere and welcome, and God be with you, and I thanke you and against the new yeare, provide for the presents: the Lord of Mis-rule is no meane man for his time, and the ghests of the high Table must lack no wine: the lusty bloods must look about them like men, and piping and dancing puts away much melancholy: stolne Venison is sweet, and a fat Coney is worth money: Pit-falles are now set for small Birdes, and a Woodcocke hangs himself in a gynne: a good fire heats all the house, and a full Almes-basket makes the beggars Prayers: the Maskers and the Mummers make the merry sport: but if they lose their money, their Drumme goes dead: Swearers and Swaggerers are sent away to the Ale-house, and vnruly wenches goe in danger of judgement: Musicians now make their instruments speake out, and a good song is worth the hearing. In summe, it is a holy time a duty in Christians, for the remembrance of Christ, and custome among friends, for the maintenance of good fellowship: In briefe, I thus conclude of it. I hold it a memory of the Heavens love, and the worlds peace, the myrth of the honest, and the meeting of the friendly.
Mummers are still abroad in Philadelphia at New Year, the Mummers Parade first appeared about the time of Nicholas Breton (1650? organized by the early Swedish settlers) and has been a city sanctioned event since 1900.
Two items were unknown to me, “Shooing of the wild mare” and “The lord of Mis-rule” both traditional Christmas activities at that time or so I learned:
Shoeing the Wild Mare
Shoeing the Wild Mare is a traditional Christmas game that goes back to at least the early 17th century.
Get a narrow(a few inches wide),strong wooden beam and suspend it from the roof with two even length ropes. The beam is the ‘mare’ of the title and should be level yet high enough above the floor so that a player’s feet are off-ground. A player ‘the farrier’ then sits on the ‘mare’ in the centre, a leg either side. This player has a hammer and has to give the underside of the beam “four times eight blows” at a designated spot. If he falls off, it is someone else’s turn.
Much hilarity, and the odd broken shoulder ensues.
(Sounds bloody painful to me, even without the falling off)
The Lord of Mis-rule
The selection of a random member of the populace to rule during the extent of the festivities, usually with chaotic results.
Vestiges of this survive even now in the Eastern States, small towns often “elect” a local schoolchild to the mayor’s office for a day each year. (I often think they do a better job than the regular mayors)
Wishing all out there a Merry Christmas wherever you may be, I will be firmly anchored at the Creek beside the wood stove and will be addressing the groaning board with my usual vigour.
Just remember “unruly wenches go in fear of judgement”.