BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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were surrounded by ranks, six, or more in depth, consisting of tall, brawny, fierce-visaged men, covered with crimson or purple velvet bonnets, and nodding plumes of the eagle and the hawk, or branches of pine, yew, oak, fern, box-wood, or flowering hea.h. Their jerkins were always of a hue that might attract the eye of ladies in the bower, or serving-damsels at the washing-green. They had breeches of immense capacity, so padded or stuffed as to make each man occupy the space of five, in their natural pro­portions ; and in this seeming soft raiment they concealed weapons of defence or offence, with which to arm themselves and the body­guard, if occasion called for resistance. To appearance, they had no object but careless sport and glee, some playing on the Scottish harp, others blowing the bagpipes, or beating targets for drums, or jingling bells. Whenever the procession halted, they danced, flourishing about the banners of their leader. The exte­rior bands, perhaps, represented in dumb show, or pantomime, the actions of warriors, or the wildest buffoonery ; and these were followed by crowds, who, with all the grimaces and phrases of waggery, solicited money or garniture from the nobles and gentry that came to gaze upon them. Wherever they appeared multi­tudes joined them ; some for the sake of jollity, and not a few to have their fate predicted by spae-wives, warlocks, and interpret­ers of dreams, who invariably were found in the train of the Ab­bot of Unreason."
In England, not only were these merry monarchs appointed over the revelries of the great and the opulent, but—as of most of the forms of amusement over which he presided,—so of the president himself, we find a rude imitation, in the Christmas cele­brations of the commonalty. Nor was the practice confined to towns; or left exclusively in the hands of corporate or public bodies. The quotation which we have already made from Stubs's " Anatomie of Abuses," refers to a rustic Lord of Misrule : and, while the antics which took place, under his governance, do not seem to have risen much above the performances of the morris-dancers, the gaudiness of the tinsel attire paraded by him and his band, forms an excellent burlesque of the more costly finery of their superiors. Nay the amusements, themselves, exhibit nearly as much wisdom as those of the court, with less of pretension ;
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