Tuesday, December 7, 2021

1702 Christmas Pranks at School in Virginia

Rev James Blair (ca. 1655–1743) probably painted by Charles Bridges

By 1702, Christmas pranking had become popular in Virginia. The Reverend James Blair, founder of the College of William and Mary, was awakened about midnight 2 weeks before Christmas 1702, by the sound of "great nails," as he called them, being pounded in "to fasten and barricade the doors of the Grammar School."  

An English schoolboy custom of "barring out" the teachers, a ceremonial lockout that signaled the start of a month of Christmas games & celebration.  The hammering surprised Blair, he said, because that very custom had been outlawed at the school years earlier.  

As Blair was forcing his way inside the school, he wrote that "the students fired off 3 or 4 Pistols & hurt one of my servants in the eye with a wadd as I suppose of one of the Pistols, while I press'd forward, some of the boys, having a great kindness for me, call'd out "for God's sake sir don't offer to come in, for we have shot, & shall certainly fire at any one that first enters."