THE CHRISTMAS SEASON 29
Hogsheads of honey, kilderkins of mustard,
Muttons, and fatted beeves, and bacon swine; Herons and bitterns, peacocks, swan, and bustard,
Teal, mallard, pigeons, widgeons, and in fine, Plum-puddings, pancakes, apple-pies, and custard.
And therewithal they drank good Gascon wine, With mead, and ale, and cider of our own ;
For porter, punch, and negus were not known."
But we cannot pursue this matter further. It is not to be treated with any degree of calmness, before dinner,—and we have not dined. We must proceed to less trying parts of our subject.
Of the earnest manner in which our ancestors set about the celebration of this festival, the mock ceremonial with which they illustrated it, the quaint humors which they let loose under its inspiration, and the spirit of fellowship which brought all classes of men within the range of its beneficent provisions, we have a large body of scattered evidence,—to be gleaned out of almost every species of existing record, from the early days of the Norman dynasty, down to the times of the commonwealth. The tales of chroniclers, the olden ballads, the rolls of courts, and the statute-book of the land, all contribute to furnish the materials from which a revival of the old pageantry must be derived, if men should ever again find time to be as merry as their fathers were.
The numberless local customs, of which the still remaining tradition is almost the sole record,—and which added each its small contingent to the aggregate of commemoration,—would certainly render it a somewhat difficult matter to restore the festival in its integrity : and, to be very candid with our readers, we bolieve we may as well confess, at the onset,—what will be very apparent to them before we have done,—that many of the Christmas observances (whether general or local) are to be recommended to their notice rather as curious pictures of ancient manners, than as being at all worthy of imitation by us who " are wiser in our generation." Sooth to say, we dare not let our zeal for our subject lead us into an unqualified approbation of all the doings, which it will be our business to record in these pages ; though they seem to have made all ranks of people very happy, in other days,—and that is no mean test of the value of any institution. Really earnest as we are in the wish that the sentiment of the