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rangements—were it but to the meanest of them.
It is impossible that customs long identified with the feelings should perish without those feelings (though from their own eternal principle they will ultimately revive and find new modes of action) suffering some temporary injury. It was a beautiful assertion of Dr. Johnson that his feelings would be outraged by seeing an old post rooted up from before his door, which he had been used to look at all his life,
,—even though it might be an encumbrance there. How much more would he have grieved over the removal of a village May-pole, with all its merry memories and all its ancient reverence !
The Christmas festival has languished from those days to this, but never has been, and never will be extinct. The stately fornis of its celebration, in high places, have long since (and, in all probability, for ever) passed away. The sole and homely representative of the gorgeous Christmas prince is the mock-monarch of the Epiphany :-the laureate of our times with his nominal duties, in the last faint shadow of the court bards, and masque. makers of yore ;-and the few lingering remains of the important duties once confided to the master of the royal revels are silently and unostentatiously performed in the office of the Lord Chamberlain of to-day. But the spirit of the season yet sur. vives; and, for reasons which we shall proceed to point out, must survive. True, the uproarious merriment—the loud voicewhich it sent, of old, throughout the land, have ceased ; and while the ancient sports and ceremonies are widely scattered, many of them have retreated into obscure places, and some, perhaps, are lost. Still, however, this period of commemoration is, everywhere, a merry time; and we believe, as we have already said, that most of the children of Father Christmas are yet wandering up and down, in one place or another of the land. We call upon all those of our readers who know anything of the “old, old, very old, grey bearded gentleman," or his family, to aid us in our search after them ;-and, with their good help, we will endeavor to restore them to some portion of their ancient honors, in England.
FEELINGS OF THE SEASON.
Of all the festivals which crowd the Christian calendar there is none that exercises an influence so strong and universal as that of Christmas ;—and those varied superstitions, and quaint customs, and joyous observances, which once abounded throughout the rural districts of England, are at no period of the year so thickly congregated, or so strongly marked, as at this season of unrestrained festivity and extended celebration. The reasons for this are various and very obvious. In the case of a single celebration,—which has to support itself, by its own solitary influence, long, perchance, after the feeling in which it originated has ceased to operate,—whose significance is, perhaps, dimly and more dimly perceived (through the obscurity of a distance year after year receding further into shadow) by its own unaided and unreflected light,—the chances are many that the annually increasing neglect into which its observance is likely to fall, shall finally consign it to an entire obliteration. But a cluster of festivals, standing in a proximate order of succession, at once throwing light upon each other, and illustrated by a varied and numerous host of customs, traditions, and ceremonies, of which, as in a similar cluster of stars, the occasional obscuration of any one or more would not prevent their memory being suggested, and their place distinctly indicated, by the others-present greatly multiplied probabilities against their existence being ever entirely forgotten, or their observation wholly discontinued. The arrangement by which a series
ations,-beautiful in themselves, and connected with the paramount event in which are laid the foundations of our religion, -are made to fall at a period otherwise of very solemn import, from its being assumed as the close of the larger of those revolutions of time into which man measures out the span of his transi.
tory existence,-and the chance which has brought down to the same point, and thrown together, the traces of customs and superstitions, both of a sacred and secular character, and uniting with the crowd of catholic observances, off-shoots from the ancient Saturnalia, remains of old Druidical rites, and glimpses into the mythology of the northern nations,—have written a series of hieroglyphics upon that place of the calendar, which, if they cannot be decyphered in every part, are still, from their number and juxtaposition, never likely to be overlooked.
But, though these causes are offered as accounting for the preservation of many customs which, without them, would long since have passed into oblivion,—which exist by virtue of the position they occupy on the calendar,—yet the more conspicuous celebrations of this season need no such aids and no such arguments. Nothing can be added to their intrinsic interest; and they are too closely connected with the solemn warnings of man's temporal destiny, and linked with the story of his eternal hopes, ever to lose any portion of that influence, a share of which (without thereby losing, as light is communicated without diminution) they throw over all the other celebrations that take shelter under their wing.
In every way, and by many a tributary stream, are the holy and beneficent sentiments which belong to the period increased and refreshed. Beautiful feelings, too apt to fade within the heart of man, amid the chilling influences of worldly pursuit, steal out beneath the sweet religious warmth of the season ;—and the pure and holy amongst the hopes of earth assemble, to place themselves under the protection of that eternal hope whose promise is now, as it were, yearly renewed. Amid the echoes of that song which proclaimed peace on earth and good will towards men,-making no exclusions, and dividing them into no classes,-rises up a dormant sense of universal brotherhood in the heart; and something like a distribution of the good things of the earth is suggested, in favor of those destitute here, who are proclaimed as joint participators in the treasure thus announced from heaven. At no other period of the year are the feeling of an universal benevolence and the sense of a common Adam so widely awakened. At no season is the predominant spirit of selfishness so effectually rebuked ;never are the circles of love so largely widened.
The very presence of a lengthened festivity--for festivity can never be solitary—would (apart from its sacred causes) promote these wholesome effects. The extended space of time over which this festival is spread,—the protracted holiday which it creates points it out for the gathering together of distant friends; whom the passing nature of an occasional and single celebration would fail to collect, from their scattered places of the world. By this wise and beautiful arrangement, the spell of home is still made to cast its sweet and holy influence along the sterile regions, as along the bright places, of after-life; and from the dark valleys and the sunny hill-tops of the world, to call back alike the spoiled of fortune, and the tired and travel-stained—to refresh themselves, again and again, at the fountain of their calmer hopes and purer feelings. A wise and beautiful arrangement this would be, in whatever season of the year it might be placed! Wise and beautiful is any institution which sets up a rallying-place for the early affections, and re-awakens the sacred sympathies of youth ! which from that well-head of purity and peace, sends forth, as it were, a little river of living waters, to flow, with revivifying freshness and soothing murmur, along the wastes and wildernesses of after years !—which makes of that spring-time of the heart a reservoir of balm, to which, in hours of sorrow, it can return for joy, and in years of guilt, for regeneration; and which, like the widow's cruse of oil, wasteth not, in all the ages of the mind's dearth! But, how greatly are the wisdom and the beauty of this arrangement increased, by the sacred season at which it has been placed! Under the sanctions of religion, the covenants of the heart are renewed. Upon the altars of our faith, the lamps of the spirit are rekindled. The loves of earth seem to have met together at the sound of the 66 glad tidings” of the season, to refresh themselves for the heaven which those tidings proclaim. From “Abana and Pharpar,” and all the “rivers of Damascus,” the affections are returned to bathe in " the waters of Israel." In many a peaceful spot and lowly home,
“ Wi' joy unfeigned, brothers and sisters meet,
An' each for other's welfare kindly spiers ;"—
and as the long separated look, once more, into the "sweet familiar
faces,” and listen, in that restored companionship, to strains such
once did sweet in Zion glide” (even as they listened long ago-and, it may be, with some who are gone from them for ever)
“ Hope springs, exulting on triumphant wing,'
That thus they all shall meet in future days;
To this tone of feeling the services of the church have, for some time previously, been gradually adapting the mind. During the whole period of the Advent, a course of moral and religious preparation has been going on; and a state of expectation is, by degrees, excited, not unlike that with which the Jews were waiting for the Messiah of old. There is, as it were, a sort of watching for the great event-a questioning where Christ shall be born, and an earnest looking out for his star in the east, that we may
come to worship him.” The feeling awakened by the whole series of these services—unlike that suggested by some of those which commemorate other portions of the same sacred story-is entirely a joyous one. The lowly manner of the Saviour's coming, the exceeding humiliation of his appointments, the dangers which beset his infancy, and his instant rejection by those to whom he came, are all forgotten in the fact of his coming itself,—in the feeling of a mighty triumph, and the sense of a great deliverance ;-or only so far remembered as to temper the triumph, and give a character of tenderness to the joy." The services of the church, about this season,” says Washington Irving, tremely tender and inspiring. They dwell on the beautiful story of the origin of our faith, and the pastoral scenes that accom. panied its announcement. They gradually increase in fervor and pathos, during the season of Advent, until they break forth in full jubilee, on the morning that brought peace and good will to
_“I do not know," he adds, “a grander effect of music on the moral feelings, than to hear the full choir, and the pealing organ, performing a Christmas Anthem, in a cathedral; and filling