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.                               117
maiden who joins the party must, of necessity, do so by passing under it. We learn, from Brand, that the ceremony was not duly performed, unless a berry was plucked off with each kiss. This berry, it is stated by other authorities, was to be presented, for good luck, to the maiden kissed ; and Washington Irving adds that, " When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases." If this be so, it behoves the maidens of a household to take good care that the branch, provided for the occasion, shall be as well furnished with these pearly tokens as the feast is likely to be with candidates for the holy state of matrimony. The practice is still of very common observance, in kitchens and servants' halls— particularly in the country. But, as we have hinted, we have met with it (and so, we dare say, have most of our readers) in higher scenes; and many a merry laugh have we heard ring from beneath the misletoe bough. There are lips in the world that we would gladly meet there in this coming season.
Another of the symptoms of the approaching season which has, at least to us, a very pleasing effect, consists in the bursts of solemn minstrelsy by which we are aroused from our slumbers, in the still hour of the winter nights :—or which, failing to break our sleep, mingle with our dreams, leading us into scenes of enchantment, and filling them with unearthly music. This midnight minstrelsy,—whether it comes in the shape of human voices, hallowing the night, by the chanting of the Christmas carol, or breaks upon the silence of the midwatches, from the mingling instruments of those wandering spirits of harmony, the waits,—has, in each case, its origin in the gloria in excelsis,the song with which the angels hailed the birth of the Redeemer, in the fields near Bethlehem.—" As soon," says Jeremy Taylor, " as these blessed choristers had sung their Christmas carol, and taught the church a hymn, to put into her offices for ever, on the anniversary of this festivity, the angels returned into heaven." Accordingly, these nocturnal hymns, although they spread over the entire period of the Advent, grow more and more fervent and frequent as the season approaches; and the night which ushers in the great day itself is filled, throughout all its watches, with the continued sounds of sacred harmony. How beautiful is the effect given to this music, by this consideration of its meaning and
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