BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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CHRISTMAS EVE.                                            167
dwellers in that same bowl. Truth has been said to lie at the bottom of a well; and we have certainly seen him unseasonably brought up out of the very well in question, by those who have gone further into its depths than was necessary for reaching the abode of wit. No doubt, truth is, at all times, a very respecta­ble personage; but there are certain times when he and wit do not meet on the best of terms; and he is apt, occasionally, to be somewhat of a revel-marrer. The garb and temper in which he often follows wit out of that bowl, are not those in which he appears to the most advantage. We know, also, that there is yet a deeper deep, in which worse things still reside ; and although there be pearls there, too,—and the skilful diver may bring treasures up out of that bowl, and escape all its evil spirits, besides,—yet it is, at any rate, not on this night of subdued mirth, that we intend to recommend an exploration of these further depths. But still the bowl should be produced,—and go round. A cheerful sporting with the light bubbles that wit flings up to its surface, is perfectly consistent with the sacred character of the night,—and, for ourselves, we will have a was­sail-bowl, this Christmas-eve.
The word, wassail, is derived from the Saxon, was-haile; which word, and drinc-heil (heil, health), were, as appears from old authors quoted by Brand, the usual ancient phrases of quaffing among the English, and equivalent to the " here's to you," and " I pledge you," of the present day. " The wassail-bowl," says Warton, " is Shakspeare's gossip's bowl, in the Midsummer Night's Dream." It should be composed, by those who can afford it, of some rich wine, highly spiced and sweetened, with roasted apples floating on its surface. But ale was more com­monly substituted for the wine, mingled with nutmeg, ginger, sugar, toast, and roasted crabs. " It is," says Leigh Hunt, " a good-natured bowl,—and accommodates itself to the means of all classes, rich and poor. You may have it of the costliest wine, or the humblest malt liquor. But in no case must the roasted apples be forgotten. They are the sine qua non of the wassail-bowl—as the wassail-bowl is of the day (he is speaking of New Year's day) : and very pleasant they are, provided they are not mixed up too much with the beverage,—balmy, comfortable, and
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