If you’ve ever wondered how they got the logs onto the massive fireplaces in times past, this illustration is probably a pretty accurate representation. As we ponder on dragging in that huge yule log on Christmas Eve, we’ll have another look at Christmas customs the past including traditional foods.
“First acknowledging the Sacredness of the Holy Time of Christmas, I proceed to set forth the Rejoicings which are generally made at that great Festival.
You must understand, good People, that the manner of celebrating this great Course of Holydays is vastly different now to what it was in former Days: There was once upon a time Hospitality in the Land; an English Gentleman at the opening of the great Day, had all his Tenants and Neighbours enter’d his Hall by Day-break, the Strong-Beer was broach’d, and the Black-Jacks went plentifully about with Toast, Sugar, Nutmeg, and good Cheshire Cheese; the Rooms were embower’d with Holly, Ivy, Cypress, Bays, Laurel, and Missleto, and a bouncing Christmas Log in the Chimney glowing like the Cheeks of a Country Milk-maid; then was the Pewter as bright as Clarinda, and every bit of brass as polished as the most refined Gentleman; the Servants were then running here and there, with merry Hearts and jolly Countenances, every one was busy welcoming of Guests, and look’d as smug as new-lick’d Puppies; the Lasses were as blithe and buxom as the Maids in good Queen Bess’s Days, when they eat Sir-Loins of Roast Beef for Breakfast; Peg would scuttle about to make a Toast for John, while Tom run harum scarum to draw a Jug of Ale for Margery: Gaffer Spriggins was bid thrice welcome by the ‘Squire, and Gooddy Goose did not fail of a smacking Buss from his Worship, while his Son and Heir did the Honours of the House; In a word, the Spirit of Generosity ran thro’ the whole House.
In these Times all the Spits were sparkling, the Hackin must be boil’d by Day-break, or else two young Men took the Maiden by the Arms, and run her round the Market-place, ‘till she was ashamed of her Laziness. And what was worse than this, she must not play with the young Fellows that Day, but stand Neuter, like a Girl doing penance in a Winding-sheet at a Church-door…the Tables were all spread from the first to the last, the Sir-Loyns of Beef, the Minc’d-Pies, the Plumb-Porridge, the Capons, Turkeys, Geese, and Plumb-Puddings, were all brought upon the board; and all those who had sharp Stomachs and sharp Knives eat heartily and were welcome, which gave rise to the Proverb, Merry in the Hall, when Beards wag all.
There were then Turnspits employed, who by the time Dinner was over, would look as black and as greasy as a Welch Porridge-pot, but the Jacks have since turned them all out of Doors. The Geese which used to be fatted for the honest Neighbours, have been of late sent to London, and the Quills made into Pens to convey away the Landlord’s Estate; the Sheep are drove away to raise Money to answer the Loss of a Game at Dice or Cards, and their Skins made into Parchment for Deeds and Indentures; nay even the poor innocent Bee, who was used to pay its Tribute to the Lord once a Year at least in good Metheglin, for the Entertainment of the Guests and its Wax converted into beneficial Plaisters for sick Neighbours, is now used for the sealing of Deeds to his Disadvantage…
Then let all your Folks live briskly, and at such a Time of Rejoicing enjoy the Benefit of good Beef and Pudding, let the Strong Beer be unlocked, and let the Piper play, O’er the Hills, and far away.”
May we all be truly thankful for the joys in our lives and the love of Christ and may we strive to carry the merriment and good cheer of Christmas in our hearts all the year round. Thehistoricfoodie©
– Christmas Entertainments. Originally published in 1740. London. ©