BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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last; the sirloyns of beef, the minc'd pies, the plumb-porridge, the capons, turkeys, geese, and plumb-puddings, were all brought upon the board ; and all those who had sharp stomachs and sharp knives, eat heartily and were welcome, which gave rise to the proverb,
' Merry in the hall, when beards wag all.' "
Now, all men, in those days, appear to have had good stomachs ; and, we presume, took care to provide themselves with sharp knives.—The only recorded instance in which we find a failure of the latter, is that portentous one which occurred, many a long day since, in the court of King Arthur; when the Christmas mirth was so strangely disturbed by the mischievous interference of the Boy with the Mantle. Under the test introduced by that imp of discord—and which appears to have " taken the shine out of" the monarch's own good sword Excalibar itself,—there was found but one knight, of all the hungry knights who sat at that Round Table, whose weapon was sharp enough to carve the boar's head, or hand steady enough to carry the cup to his lip without spilling the lamb's wool ;—and even he had a very narrow escape from the same incapacities. But then, as we have said, this was at court, and under the influence of a spell (with whose nature we take it for granted that our readers are acquainted,—and if not, we refer them to the Percy Ballads)—and it is probable that in those early, as in later, days, tests of such extreme delicacy were of far more dangerous introduction in the courts of kings than amongst as­semblies of more mirth and less pretension. We could by no means feel sure that the intrusion, in our times, of a similar test, into a similar scene, might not spoil the revels.
But to return.—The old ballads which relate to this period of the year, are redolent of good things ; and not to be read by a hungry man with any degree of equanimity. Of course, they are ex post facto ballads ; and could only have been written, under the inspiration of memory,—at a time when men were at leisure to devote their hands to some other occupation than those of cooking or carving. But it is very difficult to understand how they ever found,—as it appears they did,—-their mouths in a condition to sing them, at the season itself. There is one amongst those ballads,
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