BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.                               17
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 sea­son 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 previ­ously 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
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