BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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39                                 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
tained exceptions in favor of the Christmas-tide. Nay, folly was, as it were, crowned, and disorder had a licence ! Sandys quotes from Leland the form of a proclamation given in his " Itinerary," as having been made by the sheriff of York ; wherein it is declared that all " thieves, dice-play ers carders " (with some other characters by name, that are usually repudiated by the guardians of order), "and all other unthrifty folke, be welcome to the towne, whether they come late or early, att the reverence of the high feast of Youle, till the twelve dayes be passed." The terms of this proclamation were, no doubt, not intended to be construed in a grave and literal sense ; but were probably meant to convey something like a satire upon the un­bounded licence of the season which they thus announce.
There are very pleasant evidences" of the care which was for­merly taken, in high quarters, that the poor should not be robbed of their share in this festival. The yearly increasing splen­dor of the royal celebrations appears, at one time, to have threat­ened that result, by attracting the country gentlemen from their own seats, and thereby withdrawing them from the presidency of those sports which were likely to languish in their absence. Ac­cordingly we find an order, in 1589, issued to the gentlemen of Norfolk and Suffolk, commanding them " to depart from London, before Christmas, and to repair to their countries, there to keep hospitality amongst their neighbors." And similar orders appear to have been, from time to time, necessary, and, from time to time, repeated.
Amongst those bodies whq were distinguished for the zeal of their Christmas observances, honorable mention may be made of the two English universities; and we shall have occasion here­after to show that traces of the old ceremonials linger still in those, their ancient haunts. But the reader who is unacquainted with this subject, would scarcely be prepared to look for the most conspicuous celebration of these revels, with all their antics and mummeries, in the grave and dusty retreats of the law. Such, however, was the case. The lawyers beat the doctors hollow. Their ancient halls have rung with the sounds of a somewhat barbarous revelry ; and the walls thereof, had they voices, could tell many an old tale, which the present occupants might not con-
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