which were set on fire and the goddess was supposed to descend through the dense smoke and influence the direction of the flames, from which the fortunes of those present were predicted.
The good St. Nicholas, once overtaken by a severe storm, took refuge in a convent, and the next day being Christmas, preached to the gentle nuns a wonderful sermon. They begged him to return the following year and teach them again. At his second visit, before going to bed, he asked each of the nuns to lend him a stocking, which he filled with sugar-plums, in requital of their hospitality. This is the origin of our Christmas-stocking.
It was believed that holly composed our Lord's crown of thorns, and that the berries, white before, were stained by his blood.
Mutton was the only meat that originally entered into the composition of mince pies—in commemoration of the flocks watched on the holy night by the shepherds of Bethlehem. The spices were supposed to be suggestive of the Wise Men from the Orient—the land of spices.
From the earliest times, it seems to have been an accompaniment of festival seasons to exchange gifts and make donations to the poor. In the book of Esther, the Jews were enjoined to ''make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending of portions to one another, and of gifts to the poor."
The rehearsal of stories that formed the subject of the old songs that were popular at Christmas firesides through the ages would please by their quaintness and interest by their antiquity.
Among the most charming were those of Taliesin, one of the greatest of the old British bards. His "Song of Pleasant Things" has the same out-of-door