This is a term in many parts of England for an annual festivity celebrated on the occasion described in the subjoined communication.
For the Every-Day Book.
THE FEAST WEEK.
This festival, so called, is supposed to be nearly coeval with the establishment of Christianity in this island. Every new church that was founded was dedicated to some peculiar saint, and was naturally followed by a public religious celebration, generally on the day of that saint, or on the Sunday immediately following. Whatever might be the origin, the festival part is still observed in most of the villages of several of the midland and other counties. It is a season much to be remembered, and is anticipated with no little pleasure by the expecting villagers. The joyful note of preparation is given during the preceding week; and the clash, and splash, and bustle of cleansing, and whitewashing, and dusting, is to be seen and heard in almost every cottage. Nor is the still more important object of laying in a good solid supply for a hungry host of visitors forgotten. Happy those who can command a ham for the occasion. This is a great favourite, as it is a cut-and-come-again dish, ready at hand at all times. But this is mostly with the tip-topping part. Few but can boast of a substantial plum-pudding!—And now the important day is arrived. The merry bells from the steeple announce the event; and groups of friends and relations, not forgetting distant cousins and children, are seen making their way, long before the hour of dinner, to the appointed spot. This is Sunday; and in the afternoon a portion of these strangers, clean and neatly dressed, are seen flocking to the village church, where the elevated band in the gallery, in great force both in noise and number, contribute lustily to their edification, and the clergyman endeavours to improve the solemnity of the occasion by an appropriate address. During the early part of the ensuing week, the feast is kept up with much spirit: the village presents a holiday appearance, and open-housekeeping, as far as may be, is the order of the day; the bells at intervals send forth an enlivening peal; all work is nearly suspended; gay stalls of gingerbread and fruit, according to the season of the year, together with swings and roundabouts, spread out their allurements to the children; bowls, quoits, and nine-pins, for the men; and the merry dance in the evening, for the lasses. Fresh visitors keep dropping in; and almost all who can make any excuse of acquaintance are acknowledged, and are hospitably entertained, according to the means of their village friends. As the week advances, these means gradually diminish; and as an empty house has few attractions, by the end of the week the bustle ceases, and all is still and silent, as if it had never been.
Man naturally requires excitement and relaxation; but it is essentially necessary that they should be adapted to his situation and circumstances. The feast week, however alluring it may appear in description, is in reality productive of greater evil than good. The excitement lasts too long, and the enjoyment, whatever it may be, is purchased at the sacrifice of too great expense. It is a well-known fact, that many of the poor who have exerted every effort to make this profuse, but short-lived display, have scarcely bread to eat for weeks after. But there is no alternative, if they expect to be received with the same spirit of hospitality by their friends. The alehouses, in the interim, are too often scenes of drunkenness and disorder; and the labouring man who has been idle and dissipated for a week, is little disposed for toil and temperance the next. Here, then, the illusion of rural simplicity ends! These things are managed much better where one fair day, as it is called, is set apart in each year, as is the case in many countries; the excitement, which is intense for ten or twelve hour, is fully sufficient for the purpose; all is noise and merriment, and one general and simultaneous burst and explosion, if it may be so expressed, takes place. You see groups of happy faces. Every one is willing "to laugh he knows not why, and cares not wherefore;" and one day's gratification serves him for every day's pleasing topic of reference for weeks to come.
Mean Temperature . . . 35 . 62.