BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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J 22
worship—as against several other practices to which we have alluded,—on the express ground of its resemblance to one of the customs of the pagan celebration.
The custom of celebrating the festivities of the season, by the singing of carols, in these islands, appears to have mingled with the Christmas observances, from the earliest period. We have specimens of the carols themselves, of a remote date; andhave already given an extract from one, the manuscript of which, in the British Museum, is dated as far back as the thirteenth century. There are evidences of the universality of the practice in the fifteenth century; and the great popularity of these songs, about this time, is proved by the fact of a collection thereof having been printed in the early part of the following century, by Wynkyn de Worde. It is to the puritans that we appear to have been indebted for the introduction of the religious carol. Those enemies of all mirth,—even in its most innocent or valuable forms,—finding the practice of carol-singing, at this festive time, too general and rooted to be dealt wtfh by interdiction, appear to have endeavored to effect their objects, by directing it into a channel of their own ; and,—probably retaining the ancient airs, —to have adapted them to the strange religious ballads, of which we must give our readers a few specimens. The entire version of the Psalms of David, made by Sternhold and Hopkins, was published about the middle of the sixteenth century ; and, some time before the middle of the seventeenth, a duodecimo volume appeared, under the title of " Psalmes or Songs of Zion, turned into the language, and set to the tunes of a strange land, by W. S. (William Slatyr), intended for Christmas Carols, and fitted to divers of the most noted and common but solemne tunes, every­where in this land familiarly used and knowne."
Of these old ballads—of both kinds,—many (and snatches of more) have survived to the present day ; and may be heard— particularly in the northern counties of England,—ringing through the frosty air of the long winter nights, in the shrill voices of children, for several weeks before Christmas—probably, too, to the old traditional tunes. They are, however,—as might De expected of compositions which have no more substantial
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