display customs

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This term has been invented here to define a range of customs which involve children making something, and then displaying their handiwork by standing with it in the street, or visiting friends and neighbours, hoping for a reward of money, sweets, food, or whatever they could get. Many previous writers called them simply ‘begging’ customs, but this is unjustifiably insulting; there is a strong and long-lasting tradition that this is a legitimate way for children to get pocket money and treats, sanctioned by custom. Included under this heading would be grottoing, ‘penny for the guy’ (see under November the Fifth), and many others, including some where what is displayed is their own fanciful costume, as in trick or treat. Some former adult customs were also displays, for example the milkmaids' garland.

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