As anyone who has read this blog can attest, I enjoy history--
especially the more quotidian goings on
of those who lived in the centuries before us.
So the other day when I was clarifying
that the reference to a Yule-clog was not a misprint,
I came upon a site that described Christmas traditions from the early centuries,
from Christmas Eve to "Twelfth Night":
Brand cites Braithwaite's 1631 tract "Whimzies"
which describes a typical Christmas celebration of the day, which included:
ivy trimming the doorways, carols, mirth, and melody.
And during the Christmas season, a piper appears, bringing:
an ill wind that begins to blow on Christmasse Eve,
and so continues, very lowd and blustring,
all the twelve dayes ... and then vanisheth
to the great peace of the whole family the thirteenth day.
This would explain the reference to "pipers piping"
in the Twelve Days of Christmas song.
As for "lords a-leaping," this next passage gives a hint.
Brand cites Laurence Price's Christmas Book of 1657
which describes a 1651 Christmas celebration in a cobbler's home.
Following the Christmas meal, there were
roasted apples placed in bowls of ale and discourse without profanity.
Some played cards, other sang carols.
Then the company of plow-boys and maids began to dance,
sipping and leaping for joy while singing:
Let's dance and sing, and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.
This was followed by games which included the saucy Hot Cockles game
and a rousing game of Shoo the Wild Mare
(described in the Still Waters blog dated December 23, 2012).
I'll close with these lines from the 1630 ballad, "The Praise of Christmas":
When Christmas-tide comes in like a bride,
with holly and ivy clad,
Twelve days in the year, much mirth and good cheer,
To every household is had.