106 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
states that the multitude " cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way."
The practice, however, of introducing flowers and branches amongst the tokens of festivity, seems, and very naturally, to have existed universally and at all times. It was, as we know, a pagan manifestation of rejoicing and worship ; and is forbidden, on that express ground, in early councils of the Christian church. Hone, in his Every-day Book, quotes Polydore Vergil, to the effect that " trymming of the temples with hangynges, flowres, boughes and garlondes, was taken of the heathen people, whiche decked their idols and houses with suche array ;" and it came under the list of abominations denounced by the Puritans, for the same reason. The practice was also in use amongst the nations both of Gothic and Celtic origin ; and Brand quotes from Dr. Chandler's " Travels in Greece," a very beautiful superstition, mentioned as the reason of this practice, amongst the votaries of Druidism. " The houses, he says, were decked with evergreens in December, that the sylvan spirits might repair to them, and remain unnipped with frost and cold winds, until a milder season had renewed the foliage of their darling abodes."
In England, the practice, whencesoever derived, has existed from the very earliest days; and, in spite of outcry and prohibition, has come down, in full vigor, to our own. In former times, as we learn from Stow, in his Survey of London, not only were our houses and churches decorated with evergreens, but also the conduits, standards, and crosses in the streets;—and, in our own day, it continues to form a garniture not only of our temples and our houses, but constitutes a portion of the striking display made at this festive season, in our markets and from the windows of our shops. Holly forms a decoration of the shambles ; and every tub of butter has a sprig of rosemary in its breast.
The plants most commonly in use, for this purpose, appear to have generally been the holly, the ivy, the laurel, the rosemary and the misletoe,—although the decorations were by no means limited to these materials. Brand expresses some surprise at finding cypress included in the list, as mentioned in the tract called " Round about our Coal fire,"—and observes that he " should as soon have expected to see the yew as the cypress used