Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 121
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 121
 
each house on May Day so as to appear growing; flowers were thrown over it and strewn about the door. “Among ancient customs still retained by the Cornish, may be reckoned that of decking their doors and porches on the first of May with green boughs of sycamore and hawthorn, and of planting trees, or rather stumps of trees, before their houses.” In the north of England it was formerly the custom for young people to rise a little after midnight on the morning of the first of May, and go out with music and the blowing of horns into the woods, where they broke branches and adorned them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. This done, they returned about sunrise and fastened the flower-decked branches over the doors and windows of their houses. At Abingdon in Berkshire young people formerly went about in groups on May morning, singing a carol of which the following are two of the verses:

We’ve been rambling all the night,
And sometime of this day;
And now returning back again,
We bring a garland gay.
A garland gay we bring you here;
And at your door we stand;
It is a sprout well budded out,
The work of our Lord’s hand.
 
  At the towns of Saffron Walden and Debden in Essex on the first of May little girls go about in parties from door to door singing a song almost identical with the above and carrying garlands; a doll dressed in white is usually placed in the middle of each garland. Similar customs have been and indeed are still observed in various parts of England. The garlands are generally in the form of hoops intersecting each other at right angles. It appears that a hoop wreathed with rowan and marsh marigold, and bearing suspended within it two balls, is still carried on May Day by villagers in some parts of Ireland. The balls, which are sometimes covered with gold and silver paper, are said to have originally represented the sun and moon.
  In some villages of the Vosges Mountains on the first Sunday of May young girls go in bands from house to house, singing a song in praise of May, in which mention is made of the “bread and meal that come in May.” If money is given them, they fasten a green bough to the door; if it is refused, they wish the family many children and no bread to feed them. In the French department of Mayenne, boys who bore the name of Maillotins used to go about from farm to farm on the first of May singing carols, for which they received money or a drink; they planted a small tree or a branch of a tree. Near Saverne in Alsace bands of people go about carrying May-trees. Amongst them is a man dressed in a white shirt with his face blackened; in front of him is carried a large May-tree, but each member of the band also carries a smaller one. One of the company bears a huge basket, in which he collects eggs, bacon, and so forth.
  On the Thursday before Whitsunday the Russian villagers “go out into the woods, sing songs, weave garlands, and cut down a young birch-tree, which they dress up in woman’s clothes, or adorn with many-coloured shreds and ribbons. After that comes a feast, at the end of

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