|Furmity or Frumenty. Image from WDict.|
It is also common to give the women who go “a gooding,” as the phrase is (that is, visiting for alms the farm-houses in their vicinities), wheat for their Christmas furmity, though they sometimes collect sufficient to repay them for having it ground; and in return for this, and whatever else they may receive, they present their benefactors with sprigs of evergreens to deck their houses.
In Essex this fashion is still retained; but instead of making their circuit on St. Thomas’s Day, which is elsewhere the custom, the good dames put it off until the eve of the great festival, when you may see groups of them in their well-kept red cloaks, and lace-trimmed black silk bonnets, wandering across, perchance, snow-clad fields, to the different homesteads at which they are in the habit of receiving dole.
|Image from Grandma's Graphics.|
We know that the Christmas-boughs of our own times have gentle influences—that the tenderest sympathies of human nature nestle beneath them—that round the yule log fire, the world-worn links of kindred affection are re-forged, old covenants renewed, and friendships strengthened, and could almost deem this sheltering of the sylvan spirits of the past a type of the kindly gatherings and gracious feelings kept alive by this annual garlanding of our household hearths in the present.
May it long be continued amongst us, for these old-world usages are the pictorial embellishments of life’s book, and have in them a wordless poetry, full of refining and happy influences.