268 THE MAGIC OF JEWELS AND CHARMS
When we consider how many beautiful and symbolic rites and observances have marked the celebration of saint's days and holidays in the Old World, and how few of these have been
preserved by the inhabitants of our own country, we must find this most
regrettable. Of late years there has been a marked tendency to increase
the number of holidays, and in a few cases to revive the celebration
of old holidays, but the popular idea of the best way to celebrate
these occasions seems to be confined to making them carnivals of noise
and disorder. This is largely owing to a lack of intelligent guidance,
for it is too much to expect that any people, above all those so
practical as our American people, can spontaneously evolve, at short
notice, an emblematic expression of the idea underlying the festival.
If, however, a beautiful and adequate symbolism were presented in a
concrete form, the masses of the people would grasp its significance
quickly enough, and would thus gain a higher and better conception of
the historic anniversary or the time-honored festival they were called
upon to celebrate.
The saint's days on which the summer and winter solstices fell were memorized by distiche. For instance:
St. Barnaby bright! St. Barnaby bright! The longest day and the shortest night.
St. Thomas gray ! St. Thomas gray ! The longest night and the shortest day.
former of the verses is probably the earlier, as St. Barnabas' Day is
June 11, the day on which the summer solstice fell in England for some
time before the reform of the "Old Style" calendar, in 1752, replaced
this date; while St. Thomas' Day is December 21, the date of the winter
solstice in our modern calendar.27
Writing of the origin of the rural superstitions in re-
" Notes and Queries, 2d Series, vol. viii, London, 1859, p. 242.