SIGNS OF THE SEASON. 105
candles—the garniture of our tables,—are alike gathered from the hedges and winter gardens ; and, in the neighborhood of every town and village, the traveller may meet with some sylvan procession, or some group of boys, returning from the woods, laden with their winter greenery, and engaged in what we have heard technically called " bringing home Christmas." This symptom of the approaching festivity is mentioned by Gay, in his " Trivia:"
" When Rosemary and Bays, the poet's crown, Are bawl'd in frequent cries through all the town ; Then judge the festival of Christmass near, Christmass, the joyous period of the year ! Now with bright holly all the temples strow; With Laurel green, and sacred Misletoe."
The practice of these decorations, which is recommended to modern times, by its own pleasantness and natural beauty, is of very high antiquity,—and has been ascribed, by various writers, to various sources. They who are desirous of tracing a Christian observance to a Christian cause, remind us of those figurative expressions, in the prophets, which speak of the Messiah as the " Branch of righteousness," &c.; and describe, by natural allusions, the fertility which should attend his coming.—" The Lord shall comfort Zion," says Isaiah : " he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord." Again:—" The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious." And Nehemiah, on an occasion of rejoicing, orders the people, after the law of Moses, to " go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees;" and to make booths thereof, " every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God," and in the streets:—" and all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity," sat under these booths, " and there was very great gladness." A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine asks if this custom may not be referred, as well as that of the palms on Palm Sunday, to that passage, in the Scripture account of Christ's entry into Jerusalem, which