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tained, and the inscription of idolatry upon them
1 Letter from Rome, 354.
feast in the Fornicalia, appointed to commemorate the manner in which bread was baked before the invention of the oven by the deified Fornax. The festivities of May-day are only a continuation of the Floralia; and the Christmas holidays are a substitute for the license of the Saturnalia. Sir Isaac Newton, indeed, gives a different reason for our Lord's Nativity being assigned to the 25th of December. But it comes to the same purpose. It is all in the spirit of accommodation to pre-existing rites. "The Christian festivals," says he, "were allotted to the most remarkable days in the Julian calendar the saints' days to those on which the sun entered the different signs: the Annunciation to the 25th of March, because it was the vernal equinox: the feast of St. Michael to September 29., because it was the autumnal equinox: of John the Baptist to June the 24th, because it was the summer solstice; and the birth of Christ to December 25., because it was the winter solstice." 1 This, however, is only to substitute one form of idolatry for another; for the equinoxes and solstices were sacred days only to those who worshipped the sun. But whichever explanation be adopted, it is certain that the mode in which the festival is celebrated was borrowed from the heathen; for it was on that account interdicted by ecclesiastical authority. "Be it forbidden," says one of the councils, "to commit the irregularity of observing
1 Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, p. 144.
the Kalends, and to keep Gentile holidays, and to hang laurels and evergreens round the walls of the houses; for all these observances belong to paganism." And Prynne, in his Histriomastix, cites other councils, forbidding the early Christians, “to deck up their houses with laurel, yvie, and green boughes, as we used to do in the Christmas seaThe original meaning of this custom is thus explained by Chandler in his Travels in Greece: "Where Druidism prevailed, the houses were decked with evergreens in December, that the sylvan spirits might repair to them, and remain unnipped with frost and cold winds, until a milder season had renewed the foliage of their favourite abodes." But there was one evergreen which the Druids took under their particular protection, and attached to it a sacred and mysterious importance: in distributing the misletoe among the people, they used to cry out Giul ain nuadh; and in Burgundy it is said that the children and rustics still ask for their new year's gifts by the word Ginlaneuf. Both terms are evidently equivalent; and, according to Vallancey, who states that this pagan custom is still preserved in Ireland by a set of mummers, who parade annually on that day in all parts of the kingdom, the meaning of them is "the misletoe of the new year. But Bede supplies a better interpret
1 Braecanæ, canon 73.
2 Brand's Popular Antiquities, i. 404. Tortull. de Idololat.
3 Giu is any viscus. Ain is a circle, Nuadh is new in Irish. Essay on Celt. Liter. p. 67.
ation: the Anglo-Saxon Geol or Jule, which was the first day of the year, he derives from the turning of the sun, which of course implies that the solstice was the beginning of the year; and this is in accordance with the present use of the word Yule in the north of England, where it signifies Christmas. In an Anglo-Saxon hymn', we find an expression which is a sufficient warrant for the etymology: Gylsunne-let the sun return or shine. The return, however, of the sun from the tropics is so little perceptible on any particular day, except to the accurate observation of the astronomer, that it could never be the ground of any popular rejoicing; but if a family had been obliged to live in a place from which the sun was almost excluded, during the space of a year, in the midst of a most awful and appalling catastrophe, the return of the day on which they hailed the light of the returning sun, would be a festival to be transmitted with joy and gratitude to their descendants: and if those descendants were accustomed to look out for objects which might remind them of the mountain between the menoeid peaks of which their floating microcosm grounded; and if the largest vessels which they could see were also in the shape of the moon in her first quarter, then nothing could be better suited for their purpose than the misletoe, which has stems repeatedly forked, and its globular fruit lying in the axillæ between a pair of leaves which, when fully expanded, forms a crescent and
1 Sharon Turner's Hist. of the Ang. Sax. p. 19.
a boat. One of the consequences of the same form was the worship of the moon, which has also been traced up to a very late period in some strange customs, of which no other rational account can be surmised. In the reign of Louis XIV., a man personating a prince, and called Roifollet, went from the village into the woods at Christmas, bawling out, “Ou gui menez." Hence, says Professor Robinson, in his work on Natural Philosophy, "the Guiscarts of Edinburgh, who were persons disguised, derived their cry, Hay menay; both being corruptions of ayia pnn, the sacred moon." Another Christmas custom goes back to a date of very remote antiquity. Maid Marian, in the morris-dance, is said to be a corruption of Miriam the prophetess, whose dancing women suggested the first notion of a female morris-dancer. 1 The next festival which partakes most largely of ancient superstition is Candlemas, the origin of which is thus described by an ancient writer: "On the second day of February, the Romaines went about the city of Rome in the night, with torches and candles brenning in worship of Februa, for hope to have the more help and succour of her son Mars. Then there was a pope, called Sergius, and when he saw Christian people draw to this false maumetry and untrue belief, he thought to undo this foul use and custom, and turn it unto God's worship and our Lady's, and gave commandment that all Christian people should come to church, and offer up a candle brenning in
1 Smith's Festivals.