BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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SIGNS OF THE SEASON.                                   107
on this joyful occasion." The fact, however, is, that yew is fre­quently mentioned amongst the Christmas decorations,—as well as box, pine, fir, and indeed the larger part of the Christmas plants which we have enumerated in a former chapter. The greater number of these appear to have been so used, not on account of any mystic meanings supposed to reside therein, but simply for the sake of their greenery, or of their rich berries. Stow speaks of the houses being decked with " whatsoever the year afforded to be green ;"—and Sandys observes that, " at present, great va­riety is observed in decorating our houses and buildings, and many flowers are introduced that were unknown to our ancestors, but whose varied colors add to the cheerful effect,—as the chrysan­themum, satin-flower, &c, mingling with the red berry of the holly, and the mystic misletoe. In the west of England," he adds, " the myrtle and laurustinum form a pleasing addition." There is a very beautiful custom which we find mentioned, in connexion with the subject of evergreens, as existing, at this sea­son of the year, in some parts of Germany and Sicily. A large bough is set up in the principal room, the smaller branches of which are hung with little presents suitable to the different mem­bers of the household. " A good deal of innocent mirth and spirit of courtesy," it is observed, " is produced by this custom." Herrick, however (a poet, amid whose absurd conceits and intolerable affectation there are samples of the sweetest versifica­tion, and touches of the deepest pathos,—and who, amongst a great deal that is liable to heavier objections still, has preserved many curious particulars of old ceremonies and obsolete supersti­tions), carries this custom, of adorning our houses with evergreens, over the entire year ; and assigns to each plant its peculiar and appropriate season. . To Christmas, he appoints those which we have stated to be most commonly used on that occasion ; but insists upon a change of decoration, on the eve of Candlemas-day :—
" Down with the rosemary, and so Down with thebaies and misletoe, Down with the holly, ivie, all Wherewith you drest the Christmas hall; That so the superstitious find Not onf> loast branch there left behind:—
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