BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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84                            THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
box which was kept on board of every vessel that sailed upon a distant voyage, for the reception of donations to the priest; who, in return, was expected to offer masses for the safety of the expe­dition, to the particular saint having charge of the ship—and, above all, of the box. This box was not to be opened till the re­turn of the vessel; and we can conceive that, in cases where the mariners had had a perilous time of it, this casket would be found to enclose a tolerable offering. Probably the state of the box might be as good an evidence as the log-book, of the character of the voyage which had been achieved. The mass was, at that time, called Christmass;—and the boxes kept to pay for it were, of course, called Christmass-boxes. The poor, amongst those who had an interest in the fate of these ships,—or of those who sailed in them,—were in the habit of begging money from the rich, that they might contribute to the mass boxes ; and hence the title which has descended to our day:—giving to the anniversary of St. Stephen's martyrdom the title of Christmas-boxing day— and, by corruption, its present popular one of Boxing-day.
A relic of these ancient boxes yet exists, in the earthen or wooden box, with a slit in it, which still bears the same name ; and is carried, by servants and children, for the purpose of gather­ing money, at this season—being broken only when the period of collection is supposed to be over.
Most of our readers know that it was the practice, not many years ago (and in some places is so still), for families to keep lists of the servants of tradesmen and others, who were considered to have a claim upon them for a Christmas-box at this time. The practice,—besides opening a door to great extortion,—is one, in every way, of considerable annoyance,—and is on the decline. There is, however,-—as they who are exposed to it know,—some danger in setting it at defiance, where it is yet in force. One of the most amusing circumstances, arising out of this determination to evade the annoyances of Boxing-day, is related by Sandys. A person in trade had imprudently given directions that he should be denied, on this day, to all applicants for money ; and amongst those who presented themselves at his door, on this errand, was, unfortunately, a rather importunate creditor. In the height of his indignation, at being somewhat uncourteously repulsed, he imme.
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