صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

denominated, because the boughs of palm-trees were carried in procession, in imitation of those which the children of Israel strewed before Christ. It was observed by the Catholics with much pomp and ceremony, the sacrament being carried upon an ass in solemn procession, accompanied by the choir and preceded by people strewing branches and flowers, all which Dr. Fulke thus stigmatizes: “Your Palm Sunday procession was horrible idolatry, turning the whole mystery of Christ's riding to Jerusalem to a May-game and pageant play.” Henry VIII. declared that the bearing of palms upon Palm Sunday was to be continued ; and it appears that they were borne in England till the second year of Edward VI. Palm Sunday still remains in our calendars; in country places the children go out early in the morning to gather branches of the willow or sallow, with their gray velvet-looking buds, the only substitute for palm which our fields afford at this early season; and in Coventgarden market there may be still found a basket-woman or two with palm, as they call it, for which they find a few customers on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. This remnant of the olden times will probably soon disappear altogether.

MAUNDY THURSDAY, or the Thursday before Easter, has much exercised the ingenuity of antiquaries to account for its name, which however seems to have been derived from the old Saxon word mand or maund, signifying a basket, whence alms came to be called maundie. Thus then Maundy Thursday, the day preceding Good Friday, on which the king distributes alms to a certain number of poor persons at Whitehall

, is so called from the maunds in which the gifts were contained. In imitation of Christ washing his disciples' feet, the kings and queens of England anciently washed and kissed the feet of as many poor men and women as they were years old, besides bestowing their maundy on each. James II. is said to have been the last of our monarchs who performed this ceremony in person. It was afterward done by the almoner, and is now discontinued. The present donations consist of fish, meat, bread, and ale, in the morning, to which are added silver pennies and clothing in the afternoon, after the evening service.

Good Friday.-On this day was anciently performed the popish ceremony of creeping to the cross, in which, as it

appears from an old book of the ceremonial of the kings of England, the monarchs were accustomed to take a part, as well as the queen and her ladies. The image of the crucifix being dressed up so as to represent the Saviour, worship was made to it, accompanied with various offerings and superstitious observances. Nor was this all, for according to Googe's English version of Naogeorgus

Another image doe they get, like one but newly dead,
With legges stretch'd out at length, and havdes upon his body spreade,
Aud him with pompe and sacred song they beare unto his grave,
His body all being wrapt in lawne, and silks and sarcenet brave;
And down they kneele and kiss the grounde, their hands held up abrod,
And knocking on their breastes, they make this wooden block a god.

All this profane mummery having long since been swept away, we retain none of the external observances of Good Friday except the hot-cross-buns, the edible part of the old celebrations having, as usual, survived all the others. These buns are the ecclesiastical eulogiæ, or consecrated loaves, formerly bestowed in the church as alms, or given to those who from any impediment could not receive the host, and which were marked with a cross, like the buns that have succeeded to them. Mr. Bryant deduces the Good Friday bun from the bonn.or sacred bread which used to be offered to the Pagan gods, even so far back as the time of Cecrops.

All Fools' Day, 1st April.—Antiquarians have puzzled themselves and their readers in the attempt to account for the custom of fool-making; but their researches seem to have established nothing except that the practice is very ancient and very general. Not only in various parts of Europe does it obtain, but according to Colonel Pearce, it is in full force among the Hindoos at the celebration of their Huli festival, which is kept on the 31st of March. We have before us a great display of learning in various profound theories upon the subject, but as we have already intimated that they lead to no satisfactory or even plausible conclusion, we shall not further agitate the question, lest our readers should suspect that we mean to illustrate the practices of the day at their expense.

EASTER Dar, a festival instituted to commemorate the resurrection of our Saviour, ocours on the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after the 21st

day of March; and if the full moon happen upon a Sunday, Easter Day is the Sunday after. The name is derived from our Saxon ancestors, who at this season held 'a great festival in honour of the goddess Easter, probably the Astarte of the eastern nations. It has ever been considered by the church as a season of great festivity, and was signalized by extraordinary dramatic worship, with appropriate scenery, machinery, dresses, and decorations; the theatrical representations taking place in the churches, and the monks being the actors. Among many of the old trivial observances of this day we may note that the custom of eating a gammon of bacon, still preserved in many parts of England, was intended to show an abhorrence of Judaism at this solemn commemoration of the Lord's resurrection. Eggs, sometimes stained of a red colour to symbolize the shedding of the Saviour's blood, were commonly given at Easter, a custom which the learned De Gebelin, in his religious History of the Calendar, tells us may be traced up to the theology and' ph Sosophy of the Egytians, Persians, Gauls, Greeks, Romans, and other nations. Tansy cakes and puddings, in reference to the bitter herbs used by the Jews at this season, were eaten at Easter, and formed a common prize in the foot-races and games of hand-ball that prevailed at this season. Durand tell us that on Easter Tuesday wives used to beat their husbands; on the day following the husbands their wives. Probably both parties knew their deserts, and this was intended as a mutual punishment and atonement for their Greenwich-park and other pranks and misdeeds on the previous day.

CHAPTER XI.

Holyday Notices concluded.
Come, let us go while we are in our prime,
And take the harmless follie of the time;

We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run

As fast away as does the sunne,
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain,
Once lost can ne'er be found again;
So when or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
All love, all liking, all delight

Lies drown'd with us in endless night.
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a Maying."

Herrick Nothing less than a 'new chapter will satisfy us. It would have chilled our glowing hearts, it would have been felt as a profanation, had we, under the same section of our little work that detailed the miserable mistakes of God-dishonouring and man-degrading superstition, attempted to rescribe the inimitable and transcendent glories of Marday, the great and beneficent festival of all-loving Nature. Disappear! vanish! begone from our pages for awhile, ye paltry pomps and idle mummeries of human institution ! Avaunt! for a brief space, all rites, ceremonies, sécts, distinctions, that have sown disunion and hatred among men! -be dumb and stand rebuked! ye pseudo-champions of Omnipotence, teachers of the omniscient Deity, who, making gods of yourselves, and climbing impiously into the judgment-seat, dare to pronounce upon your fellow-mortals, telling us who shall be saved and who shall be condemned. Learn humility and forbearance if ye can, for such is wisdom-learn charity and universal love, for such is Christianity, from this great festival of Nature, not narrowed by bigotry and intolerance to one sect, one religion, or even pne nation, but diffused over the whole earth, as if our com

mon Father, by thus showing an equal regard for all mankind as his children, would teach them all to love one another as brethren of the same family. Thus considered, May is the most instructive and religious, as well as the most delightful of all our festival times. It seems to be the bridal season of heaven and earth, and the whole month is their honeymoon. Does not the festal earth look like a bride, all beautiful as she is, and wreathed with flowers? Is not the sky like a rejoicing bridegroom, radiant with sunny smiles and robed in gorgeous clouds of gold and ermine ? What nuptials were ever celebrated with such magnificence as these? What festival was ever half so joyous ? Every hill-top, garlanded like an altar, fumes with incense; every place is spread with the materials of a present or a future banquet for all created races of men and animals; the trees wave their palmy branches exultingly in the bright air; the winds issue forth from the orchestral sky, some to pipe merrily aloft, some to make music with the rustling leaves; the streams, as they blithely dance along through the flowers, send forth a cheerful melody ; the feathered songsters and the lowing herds mingle in the hymeneal strain, and this choral epithalamium finds a fitting bass in the deep-mouthed and sonorous sea. Oh! what a festival is this! How grand and solemn, even to sublimity, and yet how full of beauty, and happiness, and all-embracing love! Alas! that we should quit such a noble, such a heart-expanding jubilee to recur to the wretched mistakes of men, who, instead of imitating the wide benevolence of Nature, too often desecrate their holyday celebrations by hatred, intolerance, and superstition. But our task compels us, and we resume.

Many of our old May-day observances were doubtless derived from the heathen celebrations in honour of the goddess Flora, which consisted of licentious dances in the fields and woods, to the noise of trumpets. Thus it was the custom both here and in Italy for the youth of both sexes to proceed before daybreak to some neighbouring wood, accompanied with music and horns, to gather branches of nosegays, to return home about sunrise to deck their doors and windows with garlands, and to spend the afternoon in dancing around the May-pole, which, being placed in some conspicuous part of the village, stood there during the remainder of the year, as if it were consecrated to thio

« السابقةمتابعة »