BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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120                              THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
peculiar to themselves, and such as the world can never hope to hear again, when these gentry shall be extinct. u Oh! what a voice is silent!"—wrote Barry Cornwall, long before the intro­duction of the new police into our streets ; and the passionate ex­clamation must surely have originated in a prophetic vision of the extinction of the Dogberry who piped the night-watches in Bed­ford Square. As for those wandering musicians who charm the - long nights of the Christmas time, with unofficial music, and are waits by courtesy, they bear the same relation to the corporation minstrels of modern times, as did the travelling bards of former days to the ancient minstrels who were established in the house­holds of nobles or of kings. The waits, still, on some occasions, close their performance, by calling the hour,—and by certain other announcements, descriptive of the weather, or characteristic of the season.
The sacred origin and meaning of this practice have, however, in modern days, been a good deal lost sight of, by these uncertifi­cated harmonists, in their selection of tunes. In London, particu­larly, the appropriate music of religious celebration,—which, in awaking the sleeper, should bring the lessons of the season directly to his heart,—are (excepting perhaps on the eve of the Nativity itself) most frequently supplanted by the airs of the theatre; and the waits, for the most part, favor us, by night, with repetitions of the melodies with which the barrel-organists have labored to make us familiarly acquainted, during the day.
The practice of hailing the Nativity with music, in commemo­ration of the song of the angels, is in full observance, in Roman Catholic countries, as well as in our own. There are, we fancy, few of our readers, who have not had opportunities of listening to the divine strains which mingle in the Roman services that usher in the blessed morning itself. The noels of France are of the same character as the Christmas carols of England ; and the visits of our street musicians at this season are closely resembled by the wanderings of the Italian pifferari. These pifferari are Cala-brian shepherds, who come down from the mountains, at the season of Advent; and enter the Italian cities, saluting, with their hill music, the shrines of the Virgin and Child, which adorn the streets.
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