BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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32                            THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
tions which we are called upon to make. The purpose of the present chapter is rather to insist generally, and by some of its more striking features, upon the high and lengthened festivity with which this portion of the year was so long and so universally welcomed ; and to seek some explanation of the causes to which the diminution of that spirit, and the almost total neglect of its ancient forms, are to be ascribed.
As early as the twelfth century, we have accounts of the spec­tacles and pageants by which Christmas was welcomed at the court of the then monarch, Henry II.,—and, from this period, the wardrobe rolls, and other Household-Books of the English kings, furnish contirfual evidences of the costly preparations made for the festival. Many extracts from these books have been made by Mr. Sandys and others ; from which it appeal's, that the mirth of the celebration, and the lavish profusion expended upon it, were on the increase from year to year,—excepting during that dis­tracted period of England's history when these, like all other gracious arrangements and social relations, were disturbed by the unholy contests between the houses of the rival roses. There is, however, a beautiful example of the sacred influence of this high festival mentioned by Turner, in his History of England ; and showing that its hallowed presence had power, even in those war­like days, to silence even the voice of war,—of all war save that most impious of (what are almost always impious) wars, civil war. During the siege of Orleans, in 1428, he says, "the solemnities and festivities of Christmas gave a short interval of repose. The English lords requested of the French commanders, that they might have a night of minstrelsy, with trumpets and clarions. This was granted, and the horrors of war were suspended by melodies, that were felt to be delightful."
In the peaceful reign of Henry VII., the nation, on emerging from that long and unnatural struggle, appears to have occupied itself,—as did the wise monarch,—in restoring, as far as was pos­sible, and by all means, its disrupted ties, and re-baptizing i*s apostate feelings;—and during this period, the festival of Christ­mas was restored with revived splendor, and observed with renewed zeal. The Household-book of that sovereign, preserved in the chapter-house, at Westminster, contains numerous items
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