BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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142                             THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
in Queen Anne's time " never played at cards, but at Christmas, when the family pack was produced from the mantel-piece :"—» and Stevenson, an old writer of Charles the Second's time, in an enumeration of the preparations making for the mirth of the sea­son, tells us that " the country-maid leaves half her market, and must be sent again, if she forgets a pack of cards on Christmas Eve." And who of us all has not shared in the uproarious mirth which young and unclouded spirits find, amid the intrigues and speculations of a round game! To the over-scrup.ulous, on reli­gious grounds, who, looking upon cards as the " devil's books"— and to the moral alarmist, who, considering card-playing to be in itself gaming—would, each, object to this species of recreation for the young and innocent,—it may be interesting to know that the practice has been defended by that bishop of bishops, Jeremy Taylor, himself,—and that he insists upon no argument against the innocence of a practice being inferred from its abuse.
We have, before, alluded to the bards and harpers, who assembled, in ancient days, at this time of wassail ;—mak­ing the old halls to echo to the voice of music,—and stirring the blood with the legends of chivalry, or chilling it with the wizard tale. And the tale and the song are amongst the spirits that wait on Christmas still, and charm the long winter evenings with their yet undiminished spells. Many a Christmas evening has flown over our heads on the wings of music sweeter, far sweeter, —dearer, a thousand times dearer—than ever was played by wandering minstrel or uttered by stipendiary bard ;—and we have formed a portion of happy groups, when some thrilling story has sent a chain of sympathetic feeling through hearts that shall beat in unison no more;—and tales of the grave and its tenants have sent a paleness into cheeks, that the grave itself hath since made paler still.
The winter hearth is the very land of gossipred. There it is that superstition loves to tell her marvels, and curiosity to gather them. The gloom and desolation without,—with the wild un­earthly voice of the blast, as it sweeps over a waste of snows, and cuts sharp against the leafless branches—or the wan sepulchral light that shows the dreary earth, as it were, covered with a pall, and the trees like spectres rising from beneath it,—alike send men
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