BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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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 which may be traced to the celebrations observed, of old, in honor of Saturn, or of Bacchus.
Amongst those celebrations which have, thus, survived the de­cay 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 recog­nized 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
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