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than many an existing history, constructed from more varied materials.
For these reasons,—and some others which are more personal and less philosophical,-we love all old traditions and holiday customs. Like honest Sir Andrew Ague-cheek, we “delight in masques and revels, sometimes altogether.” Many a happy chance has conducted us, unpremeditatedly, into the midst of some rustic festival, whose recollection is amongst our pleasant memories yet ;—and many an one have we gone venturously forth to seek,—when we dwelt in the more immediate neighborhood of the haunts to which, one by one, these traditionary observances are retiring before the face of civilisation! The natural tendency of time to obliterate ancient customs, and silence ancient sports, is too much promoted by the utilitarian spirit of the day ; and they who would have no man enjoy, without being able to give a reason for the enjoyment which is in him, are robbing life of half its beauty, and some of its virtues. If the old festivals and hearty commemorations, in which our land was once so abundant,-and which obtained for her, many a long day since, the name of
merry England,”—had no other recommendation than their convivial character—the community of enjoyment which they imply—they would, on that aocount alone, be worthy of all promotion, as an antidote to the cold and selfish spirit which is tainting the life-blood and freezing the pulses of society. good to be merry and wise ;”—but the wisdom which eschews mirth, and holds the time devoted to it as so much wasted, by being taken from the schoolmaster, is very questionable wisdom in itself, and assuredly not made to promote the happiness of nations. We love all commemorations. We love these anniversaries, for their own sakes, and for their uses. We love those Lethes of an hour, which have a virtue beyond their gift of oblivion; and, while they furnish a temporary forgetfulness of many of the ills of life, revive the memory of many a ast enjoyment, and reawaken many a slumbering affection. We love those mile-stones on the journey of life, beside which man is called upon to pause, and take a reckoning of the distance he has passed, and of that which he may have yet to go. We love to reach those free open spaces at which the cross-roads of the world converge; and where
we are sure to meet, as at a common rendezvous, with travellers from its many paths. We love to enter those houses of refresh. ment, by the way-side of existence, where we know we shall encounter with other wayfarers like ourselves—perchance with friends long separated, and whom the chances of the world keep far apart—and from whence, after a sweet communion, and lusty festival, and needful rest, we may go forth upon our journey new fortified against its accidents, and strengthened for its toils. We love those festivals which have been made, as Washington Irving says, “the season for gathering together of family connexions, and drawing closer, again, those bonds of kindred Hearts, which the cares, and pleasures, and sorrows of the world are continually operating to cast loose; of calling back the children of a family, who have launched forth in life, and wandered widely asunder, once more to assemble about the paternal hearth, that rallying place of the affections, there to grow young and loving again, among the endearing mementos of childhood.” Above all, we love those seasons (“for pity is not common !” says the old ballad) which call for the exercise of a general hospitality, and give the poor man his few and precious glimpses of a plenty, which, as the world is managed, his toil cannot buy ;—which shelter the houseless wanderer, and feed the starving child, and clothe the naked mother, and spread a festival for all. Those seasons which, in their observance by our ancestors, kept alive, by periodical reawakenings, the flame of charity which, thus, had scarcely time wholly to expire, during all the year. We love all which tends to call man from the solitary and chilling pursuit of his own separate and selfish views, into the warmth of a common sympathy, and within the bands of a common brotherhood. We love these commemorations, as we have said, for themselves—we love them for their uses and still more we love them for the memories of our boyhood! Many a bright picture do they call up in our minds,—and in the minds of most who have been amongst their observers; for with these festivals of the heart are inalienably connected many a memory, for sorrow or for joy-many a scene of early love-many a merry meeting which was yet the lastmany a parting of those who shall part no more—many a joyous group, composed of materials which separated only too soon, and shall never be put together again on earth—many a lost treasure and many a perished hope,
Hopes that were angels in their birth,
But perished young, like things of earth.” Happy, happy days were they :-“0! their record is lively in my soul !” and there is a happiness, still, in looking back to them :
“ Ye are dwelling with the faded flowers,
Ye are with the suns long set,
Is a living vision yet!"
“There's many a lad I loved is gone,
My weary heart grows cold.” “Oh! the mad days that I have spent,” says old Justice Shallow, “ and to see how many of mine old acquaintance are dead !” Yet still, we love these commemorations; and hail them, each and all, as the year restores them to us, shorn and scarred as they are. And though, many and many a time, the welcome has faltered on our lips, as we “turned from all they brought to all they could not bring,” still, by God's help, we will enjoy them, as yet we may,—drawing closer to us, and with the more reason, the friends that still remain, and draining, to the last,
“ One draught, in memory of many
A joyous banquet past." The revels of merry England are fast subsiding into silence, and her many customs wearing gradually away. The affectations and frivolities of society, as well as its more grave and solemn pursuits,—the exigencies of fashion, and the tongue of the pedagogue,—are alike arrayed against them; and one by one, they are retreating from the great assemblies where mankind “most do congregate,” to hide themselves in remote solitudes and rural nooks. In fact, that social change which has enlarged and filled the towns, at the expense of the country,—which has anni. hilated the yeomanry of England, and drawn the estated gentleman from the shelter of his ancestral oaks, to live upon their produce, in the haunts of dissipation,-has been, in itself, the circumstance most unfavorable to the existence of
of them, which delight in bye-ways and sheltered places,—which had their appropriate homes in the old manor house, or the baronial hall. Yet do they pass lingeringly away. Traces of most of them still exist, and from time to time re-appear, even in our cities and towns; and there are probably scarcely any which have not found some remote district or other, of these islands, in which their influence is still acknowledged, and their rites are duly performed. There is something in the mind of man which attaches him to ancient superstitions, even for the sake of their antiquity,--and endears to him old traditions, even because they are old. We cannot readily shake off our reverence for that which our fathers have reverenced so long, even where the causes in which that reverence originated are not very obvious or not very satisfac. tory. We believe that he who shall-aid in preserving the records of these vanishing observances, ere it be too la-e, will do good and acceptable service, in his generation : and such contribution to that end as we have in our power, it is the purpose of these volumes to bestow. Of that taste for hunting out the obsolete, which originates in the mere dry spirit of antiquarianism, or is pursued as a display of gladiatorial skill in the use of the intellectual weapons, we profess ourselves no admirers. But he who pursues in the track of a receding custom, which is valuable, either as an historical illustration, or because of its intrinsic beauty, moral or picturesque, is an antiquarian of the beneficent kind; and he who assists in restoring observances which had a direct tendency to propagate a feeling of brotherhood and a spirit of benevolence, is a higher benefactor still. Right joyous festivals there have been amongst us, which England will be none the merrier-and kindly ones which she will be none the better—for losing. The following pages will give some account of that season, which has, at all times, since the establishment of Christianity, been most crowded with observances; and whose celebration is, still, the most conspicuous and universal with us, as well as throughout the whole of Christendom.
THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.
“ This book of Christmas is a sound and good persuasion for gentlemen, and all wealthy men to keep a good Christmas.”
A HA! CHRISTMAS! By T. H. LONDON. 1647.
“ Any man or woman * that can give any knowledge, or tell any tidings, of an old, old, very old grey-bearded gentleman, called Christmas, who was wont to be a verie familiar ghest, and visite all sorts of people, both pore and rich, and used to appeare in glittering gold, silk, and silver, in the Court, and in all shapes in the Theater in Whitehall, and had ringing, feasts, and jollitie in all places, both in the citie and countrie, for his comming:
whosoever can tel what is become of him, or where he may be found, let them bring him back againe into England.”
AN HUE AND CRY AFTER CHRISTMAS.
In Ben Jonson’s “ Mask of Christmas,” presented before the court in 1616,—wherein the ancient gentleman, so earnestly inquired after in one of the quotations which heads this chapter, and a number of his children, compose the dramatis persona—that venerable personage (who describes himself as “ Christmas, Old Christmas, Christmas of London, and Captain Christmas”) is made to give a very significant hint to some parties, who fail to receive him with due ceremony: which hint we will, in all cour. tesy, bestow upon our readers.—“I have seen the time you have wished for me,” says he,.... “and now you have me, they would not let me in. I must come another time !-a good jest! as if I could come more than once a year !” Over and over again, too, has this same very pregnant argument been enforced in the words of the old ballad, quoted in the “ Vindication of Christmas,”
“ Let's dance and sing, and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year!”