BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.                                  77
zealously observed, were finally broken up ; and friends, who had met together from childhood, around the Christmas fire, and pledged each other, year by year, in the wassail-bowl, were scattered by the chances of war. But out of this disturbance of the old localities, and disruption of the ancient ties of the land, a result still more fatal to these old observances had arisen—pro­moted, besides, by the dissipation of manners which the restored monarch had introduced into the country. Men, rooted out from their ancestral possessions, and looking to a licentious king for compensation, became hangers-on about the court; and others who had no such excuse, seduced by their examples, and enamored of the gaieties of the metropolis and the profligacies of Whitehall, abandoned the shelter of the old trees beneath whose shade their fathers had fostered the sanctities of life, and from " country gentlemen " became " men about town." The evils of this practice, at which we have before hinted as one of those to which the decay of rural customs is mainly owing, began to be early felt; and form the topic of frequent complaint, and the sub­ject of many of the popular ballads of that day. The song of the " Old and Young Courtier" was written for the purpose of con­trasting the good old manners with those of Charles's time; and the effects of the change upon the Christmas hospitalities has due and particular notice therein. We extract it from the Percy collection, for our readers,—as appropriate to our subject, and a sample of the ballads of the time :
" An old song made by an aged old pate,
Of an old worshipful gentleman, who had a greate estate, That kept a brave old house at a bountifull rate, And an old porter to relieve the poor at his gate ;
Like an old courtier of the queen's,
And the queen's old courtier.
" With an old lady, whose anger one word asswages ; They every quarter paid their old servants their wages, And never knew what belong'd to coachmen, footmen, nor pages, But kept twenty old fellows with blue coats and badges ; Like an old courtier, &c.
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