BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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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 resem­blance 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 Mordccai, 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
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