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.
121
Of these rude minstrels Lady Morgan, in her " Italy," gives some account; and states that, having frequently observed them stop­ping to play before the shop of a carpenter in Rome, her inquiries on the subject were answered by the information that the intention of this part of their performances was to give his due share of honor to St. Joseph. Our friend, Mr. Hone, in his " Every Day Book," has given, from an old print in his possession, a repre­sentation of this practice ;—in which two of these mountaineers are playing before the shrine of the Virgin. The practice is con­tinued till the anniversary-day of the Nativity.
With modern carol singing there are few of our readers, in town or in country (for the practice, like that of which we have just spoken, is still very general), who are not well acquainted. For some curious antiquarian information on the subject, we must refer them to Mr. Sandys's Introduction,—and to a paper in Mr. Hone's book of " Ancient Mysteries." The word, itself, is de­rived, by Brand, after Bourne, from cantare—to sing, and rola— an interjection of joy:—and although, in vulgar acceptance, it has come to be understood as implying particularly those anthems by which the Christmas-tide is distinguished, it has, at all times, been properly applied to all songs, which are sung upon any occa­sion of festival or rejoicing. In strictness, therefore, even in its application to the musical celebrations of Advent, a distinction should be drawn between thos.e carols which are of a joyous or festive character, and those more solemn ones which would be better described by the title of Christmas Hymns.
The practice itself, as applied to religious commemoration, is drawn from the very first ages of the church. It is frequently referred to in the apostolic writings ; and the celebrated letter of the younger Pliny to the Emperor Trajan, in the seventh year of the second Christian century, mentions amongst the habits of the primitive Christians, their assembling, at stated times, " to sing among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ, as to God." Such a practice, however, constitutes no peculiarity of the new worship ;—hymns of praise to their deities having made a portion of the rites of most religions. Indeed, in the more severe times of the early church, there are prohibitions against this form of
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