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Now if this suggestion was full of grave meaning, in the days of Jonson,—when the respectable old man was, for the most part, well received and liberally feasted,—when he fed, with his laughing children, at the tables of princes, and took tribute at the hands of kings,—when he showed, beneath the snows of his reverend head, a portly countenance (the result of much revelling), an eye in which the fire was unquenched, and a frame from which little of the lustihood had yet departed,—we confess that we feel its import to be greatly heightened in these our days, when the patriarch himself exhibits undeniable signs of a failing nature, and many of his once rosy sons are evidently in the different stages of a common decline. A fine and a cheerful family the old man had : and never came they within any man's door, with. out well repaying the outlay incurred on their account. at all times, their “ coming was a gladness ;”—and we feel that we could not, without a pang, see their honest and familiar faces rejected from our threshold, with the knowledge that the course of their wanderings could not return them to us under a period so protracted as that of twelve whole months.
In that long space of time, besides the uncertainty of what may happen to ourselves, there is but too much reason to fear, that, unless a change for the better should take place, some one or more of the neglected children may
be dead. We could not but have apprehensions that the group might never return to us entire. Death has already made much havoc amongst them, since the days of Ben Jonson. Alas, for Baby cocke! and wo is me for Postand-paire! And, although Carol, and Minced-pie, and New. year's Gift, and Wassail, and Twelfth-cake, and some others of the children, appear still to be in the enjoyment of a tolerably vigorous health, yet we are not a little anxious about Snap-dragon, and our mind is far from being easy on the subject of Hot-cockles. It is but too obvious that, one by one, this once numerous and pleasant family are falling away; and, as the old man will assuredly not survive his children, we may yet, in our day, have to join in the heavy lamentation of the lady, at the sad result of the above “Hue and Cry.”_"But is old, old, good old Christmas gone ?-nothing but the hair of his good, grave old head and beard left !”—For these reasons, he and his train shall be wel.
come to us, as often as they come. It shall be a heavy dispensa. tion under which we will suffer them to pass by our door, unhailed : and if we can prevail upon our neighbors to adopt our example, the veteran and his offspring may yet be restored. They are dying for lack of nourishment. They have been used to live on most bountiful fare--to feed on chines and turkeys, and drink of the wassail-bowl. The rich juices of their constitution are not to be maintained—far less re-established-at a less generous rate ; and though we will, for our parts, do what lies in our power, yet it is not within the reach of any private gentleman's exertions or finances, to set them on their legs again. It should be made a national matter of; and as the old gentleman, with his family, will be coming our way, soon after the publication of the present volume, we trust we may be the means of inducing some to receive them with the ancient welcome, and feast em after the ancient fashion.
To enable our readers to do this with due effect, we will endeavor to furnish them with a programme of some of the more important ceremonies observed by our hearty ancestors on the occasion; and to give them some explanation of those observances which linger still,—although the causes in which their institution originated are becoming gradually obliterated, and although they themselves are falling into a neglect, which augurs too plainly of their final and speedy extinction.
It is, alas! but too true that the spirit of hearty festivity in which our ancestors met this season, has been long on the decline; and much of the joyous pomp with which it was once received, has, long since, passed away. Those “divers plente of plesaunces,” in which the genius of mirth exhibited himself,—
“ About zule, when the wind blew cule,
And the round tables began,”
have sent forward to these dull times of ours but few, and those sadly degenerated, representatives.
ted, representatives. The wild barbaric splendor, the unbridled “mirth and princely cheare”—with which, upon the faith of ancient ballads, we learn that “ages long ago," King Arthur kept Christmas “in merry Carleile,” with Queen Gue.
" that bride soe bright of blee”—the wholesale hospitality,
the royal stores of “pigs' heads and gammons of bacon,” for a Christmas largesse to the poor, at which we get glimpses, in the existing records of the not over-hospitable reign of King John,the profuse expenditure and stately ceremonial by which the sea. son was illustrated in the reign of the vain and selfish Elizabeth —and the lordly wassailings and antic mummings, whose universal prevalence, at this period of the year, furnished subjects of such holy horror to the puritans, in the time of the first Charles, -have gradually disappeared, before the philosophic pretensions and chilling pedantry of these sage and self-seeking days. The picturesque effects of society—its strong lights and deep shadows --are rapidly passing away; as the inequalities of surface from which they were projected, are smoothed and polished down. From a period of high ceremonial and public celebration, which it long continued to be in England, the Christmas-tide has tamed away into a period of domestic union and social festivity ;-and the ancient observances which covered it all over with sparkling points, are now rather perceived—faintly, and distantly, and imperfectly,—by the light of the still surviving spirit of the season, than contribute anything to that spirit, or throw, as of old, any light over that season, from themselves.
Of the various causes which contribute to the mingled festival of the Christmas-tide, there are some which have their origin in feelings, and are the remains of observances, that existed previ. ously to that event from which the season, now, derives its name. After the establishment of Christianity, its earliest teachers, feeling the impossibility of replacing, at once, those pagan commemorations which had taken long and deep root in the constitution of society, and become identified with the feelings of nations,-endeavored rather to purify them from their uncleanness, and adapt them to the uses of the new religion. By this arrangement, many an object of pagan veneration became an object of veneration to the early Christians; and the polytheism of papal Rome (promoted in part by this very compromise, working in the stronghold of the ancient superstition) became engrafted upon the polytheism of the heathens. At a later period, too, the Protestant reformers of that corrupted worship found themselves, from a similar impossibility, under a similar necessity of retaining a
variety of Catholic observances :—and thus it is that festival customs still exist amongst us, which are the direct descendants of customs connected with the classic or druidical superstitions,and sports
be traced to the celebrations observed, of old, in honor of Saturn, or of Bacchus.
Amongst those celebrations which have, thus, survived the de. cay of the religions with which they were connected, by being made subservient to the new faith, or purified forms, which replaced them, that which takes place at the period of the new year—placed as that epoch is in the neighborhood of the winter solstice-stands conspicuous. Bequeathed, as this ancient commemoration has been (with many of its forms of rejoicing), by the pagan to the Christian world,—it has been, by the latter, thrown into close association with their own festival observances in honor of the first great event in the history of their revelation; and, while the old observances, and the feelings in which they originated, have thus been preserved to swell the tide of Christian triumph,—their pedigree has been overlooked, amid the far higher interest of the observances by whose side they stand, and their ancient titles merged in that of the high family into which they have been adopted.
In most nations, of ancient or modern times, the period of what is popularly called the winter solstice appears to have been recog. nized as a season of rejoicing. The deepening gloom and increasing sterility which have followed the downward progress of the sun's place in heaven, would generally dispose the minds of men to congratulation at the arrival of that period when, as experience had taught them, he had reached his lowest point of influence with reference to them ; and the prospects of renewed light, and warmth, and vegetation, offered by what was considered as his returning march, would naturally be hailed by the signs of thanksgiving, and the voice of mirth. The Roman Saturnalia, which fell at this period, were, accordingly, a season of high festivity,-honored by many privileges and many exemptions from ill. The spirit of universal mirth and unbounded licence was abroad, and had a free charter. Friends feasted together, and the quarrels of foes were suspended. No war was declared, and no capital executions were permitted to take place, during this
season of general good-will; and the very slave, beneath its genial influence, regained for a moment the moral attitude of a man, and had a right to use the tongue which God had given him, for its original purpose of expressing his thoughts. Not only in the spirit of the time, but in many of the forms which it took, may a resem. blance be traced to the Christmas rejoicings of later days. The hymns in honor of Saturn were the Roman representatives of the modern carol ; and presents passed from friend to friend, as Christmas gifts do in our day. (It may be observed here, that the interchange of gifts, and the offering of donations to the poor, appear to have been, at all periods of rejoicing or delivery, from the earliest times, one of the modes by which the heart manifested its thankfulness; and our readers may be referred for a single example, where examples abound, to the directions recorded in the Book of Esther, as given by Mordecai, to the Jews in Shushan, for celebrating their escape from the conspiracy of Haman:-that on the anniversaries of “the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day; they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”) But a more striking resemblance still,-between the forms observed during the days of the Saturnalia, and those by which the Christmas festival was long illustrated,-may be noticed in the ruler, or king, who was appointed, with considerable prerogatives, to preside over the sports of the former. He is the probable ancestor of that high potentate who, under the title of Christmas Prince, Lord of Misrule, or Abbot of Unreason, exercised a similar sway over the Christmas games of more recent times; and whose last descendant, the Twelfth-night King, still rules, with a diminished glory, over the lingering revelries of a single night. - In the northern nations of ancient Europe, the same period of the year was celebrated by a festival, in honor of the God Thor; and which, like the Roman Saturnalia, and the festival of our own times, was illustrated by the song, the dance, and the feast, executed after their barbarous fashion, and mingled with the savage rites of their own religion. The name of this celebration, Yule, Jule, Iul, or Iol, has given rise to many disputes amongst