BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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22                              THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
The Wittenagemots of our Saxon ancestors were held, under the solemn sanctions and beneficent influences of the time ; and the series of high festivities established by the Anglo-Saxon kings appear to have been continued, with yearly increasing splendor and multiplied ceremonies, under the monarchs of the Norman race. From the court, the spirit of revelry descended, by all its thousand arteries, throughout the universal frame of society,— visiting its furthest extremities and most obscure recesses, and everywhere exhibiting its action, as by so many pulses, upon the traditions, and superstitions, and customs which were common to all, or peculiar to each. The pomp and ceremonial of the royal observance were imitated in the splendid establishments of the more wealthy nobles ; and more faintly reflected from the dimin­ished state of the petty baron. The revelries of the old baronial castle found echoes in the hall of the old manor-house,—and these were, again, repeated in the tapestried chamber of the country magistrate, or from the sanded parlor of the village inn. Merri­ment was, everywhere, a matter of public concernment; and the spirit which assembles men in families now, congregated them by districts then.
Neither, however, were the feelings wanting which connected the superstitions of the season with the tutelage of the roof-tree, and mingled its ceremonies with the sanctities of home. Men might meet in crowds to feast beneath the banner of the baron— but the misletoe hung over each man's own door. The black jacks might go round in the hall of the lord of the manor,—but they who could, had a wassail-bowl of their own. The pageant­ries and high observances of the time might draw men to common centres, or be performed on a common account,—but the flame of the Yule-log roared up all the individual chimneys of the land. Old father Christmas, at the head of his numerous and uproar­ious family, might ride his goat through the streets of the city and the lanes of the village,—but he dismounted to sit, for some few moments, by each man's hearth ; while some one or another of his merry sons would break away, to visit the remote farm­houses, or show their laughing faces at many a poor man's door. For be it observed, this worthy old gentleman and his kind-hearted children were no respecters of persons. Though trained
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