BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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ST. THOMAS'S DAY.                                        147
motions and graceful manoeuvres of the skilful amongst the skaters—the active games connected with this exercise (such as the Golf of our northern neighbors, not very commonly practised in England)—the merry accidents of the sliders—and the loud and mischievous laugh of the joyous groups of snow-ballers— are all common amongst the picturesque features by which the Christmas time is commonly marked, in these islands. To be sure, the kind of seasons seems altogether to have abandoned us in which the ice furnished a field for those diversions, during a period of six weeks ;—and the days are gone when fairs were held on the broad Thames, and books were printed and medals struck on the very pathway of his fierce and daily tides. Even now, as we write, however, in this present year of grace, old Winter stands without the door, in something like the garb in which as boys we loved him best, and that old aspect of which we have such pleasant memories—and which Cowper has so well described :—
" 0 ! Winter ! ruler of the inverted year ! Thy scattered hair with sleet-like ashes filled ; Thy breath congealed upon thy lips ; thy cheeks Fringed with a beard made white with other snows Than those of age ; thy forehead wrapt in clouds: A leafless branch thy sceptre; and thy throne A sliding car indebted to no wheels, But urged by storms along thy slippery way !"
In looking over a description of London, we have met with a quotation of a passage from Fitz Stephen, an old historian of that city; in which he gives a quaint description of these familiar sports, as they were practised in King Henry the Second's day, on the large pond or marsh which then occupied the site of what is, now, Moorfields. The passage is short, and we will quote it.
" When that vast lake," he says, " which waters the walls of the city, towards the north, is hard frozen, the youth, in great numbers, go and divert themselves on the ice ; some taking a small run for the increment of velocity, place their feet at a pro­per distance, and are carried, sliding, sideways a great way. Others will take a large cake of ice, and seating one of their companions upon it, they take hold of one another's hands, and
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