On the morning of the feast of St Thomas the Apostle, 21 December, it was once the custom in parts of England for women to go from house to house for ask for money to cheer their Christmas.
This was called going gooding or goin’ a-gooding, because it was the custom for grateful recipients to wish all that is good to their benefactors for the festive season. As a result the day was in some places called Gooding Day. The practice was also known as going a-Thomasing or going a-corning.
This last phrase came from another tradition of the day, that the women would carry two-handled vessels called gossiping pots or pads in which to get donations of wheat (which American readers may like to be reminded is what corn usually means in England). From this they would make furmenty or frumenty (a drink of hulled wheat boiled in milk and seasoned with cinnamon and sugar; its name comes from frumentum, the Latin for corn).
In 1854 Anne Elizabeth Baker remarked in her Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases that “My good old grandfather always, on this day, gave a bowl of wheat to any of the poor in the village who chose to come for it.” She said sadly that the custom was “going fast into disuetude”.
In 1847, the Hampshire writer Charlotte M Yonge wrote in Scenes and Characters that “St. Thomas’s day was marked by the custom, called at Beechcroft ‘gooding.’ Each mother of a family came to all the principal houses in the parish to receive sixpence, towards providing a Christmas dinner, and it was Lily’s business to dispense this dole at the New Court.”
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