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.                                    149
are gazing upon scenes and doings separated from the realities of life. Verily do we believe that, never again in this life, are so many new and bewildering and bewitching feelings awakened in his breast, as on the first night in which the boy is spectator of a theatrical performance,—if he be old enough to enjoy, and not quite old enough clearly to understand what is going on.
At this holiday period of the year, the boxes of our theatres are filled with the happy faces, and their walls ring with the sweet laughter, of children. All things are matters of amazement and subjects of exclamation. But in London, above all things,—far, far beyond all other things (though it does not begin for some days later than this), is the Pantomime, with its gorgeous scenery, and incomprehensible transformations and ineffable fun. " Ready to leap out of the box," says Leigh Hunt, " they joy in the mis­chief of the clown, laugh at the thwacks he gets for his meddling, and feel no small portion of contempt for his ignorance, in not knowing that hot water will scald, and gunpowder explode ; while with head aside to give fresh energy to the strokes, they ring their little palms against each other, in testimony of exuberant delight." The winter pantomimes are introduced on the evening next after Christmas night; and some account of this entertainment seems, as a feature of the season, due to our Christmas readers.
From Italy, then, we appear to have derived our pantomime— the legitimate drama of Christmas : and to pagan times and dei­ties the origin of our pantomimical characters may be directly referred. The nimble harlequin of the stage is the Mercury of the ancients, and in his magic wand and charmed cap may be recognized that god's caduceus and petasus. Our columbine is Psyche, our clown Momus, and our Pantaloon is conjectured to be the modern representative of Charon,—variously habited, in­deed, according to Venetian fancy and feelings. Even Punch, the friend of our childhood,—the great-headed, long-nosed, hump­backed " Mister Punch," it seems, was known to the Romans, under the name of Maccus.
Our pantomime, however, is an inferior translation, rather than a good copy, from its Italian original. The rich humor, the ready wit, the exquisite raciness of the Italian performance, have all evaporated,—and with us, are burlesqued by the vapid joke,
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