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In that same hour that Christ Mmselfc
was borne, and came to light, And tfnto water straight againe
transformde and altred quight. There are beside that mindfully
the money still do watch. That first to aultar commes, which then
they privily do snatch. The priestes, least othe r should it have,
takes oft the same away, Whereby they thinke throughout the years
to have good lucke in play, And not to lose: then straight at game
till day-light do they strive, To make some present proofe how well
their hallowde pence wil thrive. Three Masses every priest doth sing,
upon that solcmne day. With offerings unto every one,
that so the more may play. This done, a woodden child in clowtes
is on the aultar set, About the which both bores and gyrles
do daunce and trymly jet, And Carrols sing in praise of Christ,
and, for to helpc them heare, The organs annswere every verse
with sweetc and solcmne cheare. The priestes doe rore aloude; and round
about the parentes stande To see the sport, and with their voyce
do helps them and their hands.
The commemorations in our own times vary from the account in these versifyings. An accurate observer, with a hand
Jowerful to seize, and a hand skilled in reserving manners, offers us a beautiful sketch of Christmas-tide in the "New Monthly Magazine," of December 1, 1825. Foremost in his picture is the • most estimable, because the most useful and ornamental character in society,—a good parish priest.
"Our pastor was told one day, in argument, that the interests of Christianity ^rere opposed to universal enlightenment. I shall not easily forget his answer. 'The interests of Christianity,' said he, ' are the same as the interests of society. It has no other meaning. Christianity is that very enlightenment you speak of. Let any man find out that thing, whatever it be, which is to perform the very greatest good to society, even to its own apparent detriment, and I say that is Christianity, or I know not the spirit of its founder. What?' continued he, ' shall we take Christianity for an arithmetical puzzle, or a contradiction in terms, or the bitterness of a bad argument, or the interests, real or supposed, of any parti
cular set of men? God forbid. I wish to speak with reverence (this conclusion struck me very much)—I wish to speak with reverence of whatever has taken place in the order of Providence. I wish to think the best of the very evils that have happened ; that a good has been got out of them; perhaps that they were even necessary to the good. But when once we have attained better means, and the others are dreaded by the benevolent, and scorned by the wise, then is the time come for throwing open the doors to all kindliness and to all knowledge, and the end of Christianity is attained in the reign of beneficence.'
"In this spirit our pastor preaches to us always, but most particularly on Christmas-day; when he takes occasion to enlarge on the character and views of the divine person who is supposed then to have been born, and sends us home more than usually rejoicing. On the north side of the church at M. are a great many holly-trees. It is from these that our dining and bed-rooms are furnished with boughs. Families take it by turns to entertain their friends. They meet early; the beef and pudding are noble; the mince-pies—peculiar; the nuts half play-things and half-eatables ; the oranges as cold and acid as they ought to be, furnishing us with a superfluity which we can afford to laugh at; the cakes indestructible; the wassail bowls generous, old English, huge, demanding ladies, threatening overflow as they come in, solid with roasted apples when set down. Towards bed-time you hear of elder-wine, and not seldom of punch. At the manorhouse it is pretty much the same as elsewhere. Girls, although they be ladies, are kissed under the misletoe. If any family among us happen to have hit upon an exquisite brewing, they send some of it round about, the squire's house included; and he does the same by the rest. Riddles, hot-cockles, forfeits, music, dances sudden and not to be suppressed, prevail among great and small; and from two o'clock in the day to midnight, M. looks like a deserted place out of doors, but is full of life and merriment within. Playing at knights and ladies last year, a jade of a charming creature must needs send me out for a piece of ice to put in her wine. It was evening and a hard frost. I shall never forget the cold, cutting, dreary, dead look of every thing out of doors, with a wind through the wiry trees, and the snow on the ground, contrasted with the sudden return to warmth, light, and joviality.
"I remember we had a discussion that time, as to what was the great point and crowning glory of Christmas. Many were for mince-pie; some for the beef and plum-pudding; more for the wassailbowl; a maiden lady timidly said, the misletoe; but we agreed at last, that although all these were prodigious, and some of them exclusively belonging to the season, the fire was the great indispensable. Upon which we all turned our faces towards it, and began warming our already scorched hands. A great blazing fire, too big, is the visible heart and soul of Christmas. You may do without beef and plum-pudding; even the absence of mince-pie may be tolerated; there must be a bowl, poetically speaking, but it need not be absolutely wassail. The bowl may give place to the bottle. But a huge, heaped-up, over heaped-up, allattracting fire, with a semicircle of faces about it, is not to be denied us. It is the lar and genius of the meeting; the proof positive of the season; the representative of all our warm emotions and bright thoughts; the glorious eye of the room; the inciter to mirth, yet the retainer of order; the amalgamater of the age and sex; the universal relish. Tastes may differ even on a mince-pie; but who gainsays a fire? The absence of other luxuries still leaves you in possession of that; but
'Who can hold a fire in his hand With thinking on the frostiest twelfthcake?'
"Let me have a dinner of some sort, no matter what, and then give me my fire, and my friends, the humblest glass of wine, and a few penn'orths of chesnuts, and I will still make out my Christmas. What! Have we not Burgundy in our blood? Have we not joke, laughter, repartee, bright eyes, comedies of other people, and comedies of our own; songs, memories, hopes? [An organ strikes up in the street at this word, as if to answer me in the affirmative. Right, thou old spirit of harmony, wandering about in that ark of thine, and touching the public ear with sweetness and an abstraction! Let the multitude bustle on, but not unarrested by thee and by others, and not unreminded of the happiness of renewing a wise childhood.] As to our old friends
the chesnuts, if any body wants an execs? to his dignity for roasting them, let bin take the authority of Milton. 'Who now,' says he, lamenting the loss of his friend Deodati,—' who now will help « soothe my cares for me, and make tbi long night seem short with his cbmtB> tion; while the roasting pear hisses tecderly on the fire, and the nuts burst an; with a noise,—
'And out of doors a washing storm over whelms
Nature pitch-dark, and rides the thaniiciog elms?'"
Chrittmtu in France.
From a newspaper of 1823, (thensmt unfortunately not noted at the time, and not immediately ascertainable), it appess that Christmas in France is another ttaj from Christmas in England.
"The habits and customs of the Parisians vary much from those of Ootowe metropolis at all times, but at no tint more than at this festive season, h Englishman in Paris, who had been fe some time without referring to his almanac, would not know Christmas-dn from another by the appearance of the capital. It is, indeed, set down as a/w defete in the calendar, but all the Canary business of life is transacted; streets are, as usual, crowded with wagons and coaches; the shops, with k, exceptions, are open, although on fete days the order for closing then s rigorously enforced, and if not attapdri to, a fine levied; and at the chnrcbs nothing extraordinary is going bread All this is surprising in a catholicconoOJwhich professes to pay such attention to the outward rites of religion.
"On ChrUtmas-evc indeed, that if some bustle for a midnight mass, to find immense numbers flock, as the priests" this occasion, get up a showy specttck which rivals the theatres. The altars a" j dressed with flowers, and the chun*" decorated profusely; but there is 8 all this to please men who haveliefl1 *f customed to the John Bull mode o/5^ ing the evening. The good English? of meeting together to forgive offences!* injuries, and to cement reconciliatiott" here unknown. The French listen to W church music, and to the singing of qhoirs, which is generally exct\k& j*! they know nothing of the origin of the*/
and of the duties which it imposes. The English residents in Paris, however, do not forget our mode of celebrating this day. Acts of charity from the rich to the needy, religious attendance at church, and a full observance of hospitable rites, are there witnessed. Paris furnishes all the requisites for a good pudding, and the turkeys are excellent, though the beef is not to be displayed as prize production.
"On Christmas-day all the English cooks in Paris are in full business. The queen of cooks, however, is Harriet Dunn, of the Boulevard.—As sir Astley Cooper among the cutters of limbs, and d'Egville among the cutters of capers, so is Harriet Dunn among the professors of one of the most necessary, and in its results, most gratifying professions of existence; her services are secured beforehand by special retainers; and happy is the peer who can point to his pudding, and declare that it is of the true "Dunn" composition. Her fame has even extended to the provinces. For some time previous to Christmas-day, she forwards puddings in cases to all parts of the country, ready cooked and fit for the table, after the necessary warminu. All this is, of course, for the English. No prejudice can be stronger than that of the French against plum-pudding—a Frenchman will dress like an Englishman, swear like an Englishman, and get drunk like an Englishman; but if you would offend him for ever, compel him to eat plumpudding. A few of the leading restaurateurs, wishing to appear extraordinary, have plomb-pooding upon their cartes, but in no instance is it ever ordered by a Frenchman. Every body has heard the story of St. Louis—Henri Quatre, or whoever else it might be, who, wishing to regale the English ambassador on Christmas day with a plumb-pudding, procured an excellent recipe for making one, which he gave to his cook, with strict injunctions that it should be prepared with due attention to all the particulars. The weight of the ingredients, the size of the copper, the quantity of water, the duration of time, every thing was attended to except one trifle—the king forgot the cloth, and the pudding was served up like so much soup, in immense tureens, to the surprise of the ambassador, who was, however, too well bred to express his astonishment. Louis XVIII., either to show his contempt of the prejudices of his countrymen, or to keep up a custom which suits his palate, has always an enormous pudding on
Christmas-day, the remains of which, when it leaves the table, he requires to be eaten by the servants, Aon grl, mauvait gri; but in this instance even the commands of sovereignty are disregarded, except by the numerous English in his service, consisting of several valets, grooms, coachmen, &c., besides a great number of ladies' maids, in the service of the duchesses of Angouleme and Berri, who very frequently partake of the dainties of the king's table."
The following verses from the original in old Norman French, are said to be the first drinking song composed in England. They seem to be an abridged version of the Christmas carol in Anglo-Norman French, translated by Mr. Douce:—
Lordlings, from a distant home,
Who loves our minstrelsy—
With festive mirth and glee.
Lordlings, list, for we tell you true;
That cloudy care defy:
Nor lack the stately pye.
Lordlings, it is our host's command,
To drain the brimming bowl;
And sways without controul.
There were anciently great doings in the halls of the inns of court at Christmas time. At the Inner-Temple early in the morning, the gentlemen of the inn went to church, and after the service they did then "presently repair into the hall to breakfast with brawn, mustard, and malmsey." At the first course at dinner, was "served in, a fair and \argeBore* head upon a silver platter with minstralsye."*
Dugdale'« Orig. Jurid.
In « The Wonderful Years, 1603," Holinshed says, that in 1170, upon the
Dekker speaks of persons apprehensive young prince's coronation, kingHenry II.
of catching the plague, and says, " they "served his son at the table as sewer,
went (most bitterly) miching and muffled bringing up" the bore't head, with trum
up and down, with rue and wormwood pets before it, according to the manner."#
stuff into their eares and nosthrils, look- An engraving from a clever drawing by
ing like so many boret heads stuck with Bowlandson, in the possession of the
branches of rosemary, to be served in for editor of the Every-Day Book, may grace
brawne at Christmas." fully close this article.
There are some just observations on the old mode of passing this season, in " The World," a periodical paper of literary pleasantries. "Our ancestors considered Christmas in the double light of a holy commemoration, and a cheerful festival, and accordingly distinguished it by devotion, by vacation from business, by merriment, and hospitality. They seemed eagerly bent to make themselves, and every one about them happy; with what punctual xeal did they wish one another a merry Christmas! and what an omission would it have been thought, to have concluded a letter without the compliments of the season I The great hall resounded with the tumultuous joys of servants and tenants, and the gambols they played served as amusement to the lord of the manor, and his family, who, by encouraging every art conducive to mirth and entertainment, endeavoured to soften the rigour of the season, and mitigate the influence of winter."
The country squire of three hundred a
year, an independent gentleman in the reign of queen Anne, is described as having " never played at cards but at Christmas, when the family pack was produced from the mantle-piece." "His chief drink the year round was generally ale, except at this season, the 5th of November, or some other gala days, when he would make a bowl of strong brandy punch, garnished with a toast and nutmeg. In the corner of his hall, by the fire-side, stood a large wooden two-armed chair, with a cushion, and within the chimney corner were a couple of seats. Here, at Christmas, he entertained his tenants, assembled round a glowing fire, made of the roots of trees, and other great logs, and told and heard the traditionary tales of the village, respecting ghosts and witches, till fear made them afraid to move. In the meantime the jorum of ale was in continual circulation."*
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