BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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we learn that a grant of £450 was made to George Kirke, Esq., gentleman of the robes, for the masking attire of the king and his party. In 1637, there is a warrant under the privy seal to the same George Kirke, for £150, to provide the masking dress of the king ; and, in the same year, tinother to Edmund Taverner, for £1,400, towards the expenses of a masque to be presented at Whitehall, on the ensuing Twelfth-Night. We have selected these from similar examples furnished by Sandys, in order to give our readers some idea of the sums expended in these enter­tainments ;—which sums will appear very considerable, when estimated by the difference between the value of money in our days and that of two hundred years ago. Several of the masques presented at court during this and the preceding reigns were written by Ben Jonson.
During the whole of this time, the forms of court ceremonial appear to have been aped, and the royal establishments imitated as far as possible, by the more powerful nobles ; and the masques and pageantries exhibited for the royal amusement were accord­ingly reproduced or rivalled by them, at their princely mansions in the country. Corporate and other public bodies caught the infection all over the land ; and each landed proprietor and coun­try squire endeavored to enact such state in the eyes of his own retainers, as his means would allow. The sports and festivities of the season were everywhere taken under the protection of the lord of the soil; and all classes of his dependents had a customary claim upon the hospitalities which he prepared for the occasion. The masques of the court and of the nobles were imitated in the mummmgs of the people,—which we shall have occasion par­ticularly to describe hereafter,—they having survived the costly pageants of which they were the humble representatives. The festival was thus rendered an universal one, and its amusements brought within the reach of the indigent and the remote. The peasant, and even the pauper, were made, as it were, once a year, sharers in the mirth of their immediate lord, and even of the monarch himself. The laboring classes had enlarged privi­leges, during this season, not only by custom, but by positive enactment; and restrictive acts of parliament, by which they were prohibited from certain games at other periods, con-
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