boy bishops

boy bishops
   In medieval times, most English cathedrals and abbeys, collegiate churches, and schools, used to reverse the structures of hierarchy at midwinter by selecting a young choirboy to act as 'bishop' or 'abbot'. Wearing appropriate robes, he would preside at services, preach a sermon, and lead a procession through the streets blessing the people - during which money would be collected for the upkeep of the institution he represented. His term of office began on *St Nicholas's Day (6 December) and ended on *Holy Innocents Day (28 December); in London and some other towns, he was actually referred to as 'St Nicholas'. The last known example in England was at Gloucester Cathedral in 1558.
   ■ Neil Mackenzie, History Today 37 (1987), 10-16; Hutton, 1996: 100-4; Wright and Lones, 1940: iii. 194-7; Hazlitt, 1905: 68-71.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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