Many elements enter into the modern Christmas. Then it the delight of its warmth and brightness and comfort against the bleak midwinter. A peculiar charm of the northern Christmas lies in the thought of the cold barred out, the home made a warm, gay place in contrast with the cheerless world outside. The: the physical pleasure of "good cheer," of plentiful eating and drinking, joined to, and partly resulting in, a sense of goodwill and expansive kindliness towards the world at large, a temporary feeling of the brotherhood of man, a desire that the pour may for once in the year " have a good time." Here perhaps we may trace the influence of the Saturnalia, with its dreams of the age of gold, its exaltation of them of low degree. Mixed with a little sentimental Christianity this is the Christmas of Dickens—the Christmas which he largely helped to perpetuate in England.
Each nation, naturally, has fashioned its own Christmas. The English have made it a season of solid material comfort, of good-fellowship and "charity," with a slight flavour of soothing religion. The modern French, sceptical and pagan, make little of Christmas, and concentrate upon the secular celebration of the jour de Pan. For the Scandinavians Christmas is above all a time of sport, recreation, good living, and social gaiety in the midst or a season when little outdoor work can be done and night almost swallows up day. The Germans, sentimental and childlike, have produced a Christmas that is a very Paradise for children and at which the old delight to play at being young again around the Tree. For the Italians Christmas is centred upon the cult of the Bambino, so fitted to their dramatic instincts, their love of display, their strong parental affection. (How much of the sentiment that surrounds the presepio is, though religiously heightened, akin to the delight of a child in its doll !) If the Germans may be called the good, industrious, sentimental children of Europe, making the most of simple things, the Italians are the lively, passionate, impulsive children, loving gay clothes and finery ; and the contrast shows in their keeping of Christmas.
The modern Christmas is above all things a children's feast, and the elders who join in it put themselves upon their children's