ePub 版

ancestors, nor the genial politeness of our Norman invaders, now united so kindly at each recurring Christmas season—which, we sincerely trust, will never again assume the saddened countenance and the deep sables which at present mark our deep sympathy in the terrible bereavement of our beloved Queen.





CHRISTMAS has been shorn of much of its glory this year (1861), and the hale but ancient pilgrim, wearing crape among his holly crowns, has a look of grief mixed with his wonted mirth. The old year will die out in a few sad, dark days. The farewell bells of the season used to have a tone of pleasantry in them, but recently, in unison with the usual solemn memories, one predominant dirge-like note smote every ear. Attempts to be joyous seemed treason to our right feelings, and those “that came to laugh remained to weep.” Truly the thread of our lives is of a mingled yarn; no bright or gay-coloured skein can run long, and the fate-woven woof of existence must provide the funeral black as well as the shining marriage white. A truce to such gloomy thoughts! and let us endeavour to illustrate the subject with suggestive, if not festive, ideas.

Our old English Christmas was held to extend from the eve of that great feast to Twelfth Night, and, consequently New Year's Day and its observances were absorbed in that one grand national celebration. It was, and is, far different in Scotland. After the Reformation, Christmas assumed with our neighbours a Papistical, nay, an almost heathenish character; and plum-puddings, together with mince-pies, were denounced as unworthy indulgences of the flesh. But those bonnie Scots must keep holiday in common with other Christian people. The departure of the old year and the advent of the new were selected, or rather perpetuated, exclusively in their Hogmany. The night of December 31st found Edinburgh in an uproar; the wonted severity of Presbyterian rule was relaxed; old and young, rich and poor, thronged the streets, while, cheered by claret or mountain-dew, a cantie wooer was found for every maid and matron; and a thousand halfstolen kisses, mingled with a cordial “God bless you," manifested, oddly enough, the national joy on the coming of young Master January :

Our lively friends on the other side of the Channel are remarkable for their cordial welcoming of the New Year. In Paris (and Paris is France) for several weeks before the happy season, the shop windows display a brilliant assortment of New Year's gifts, and proclaim what is expected of every good Frenchman--no visits can be paid without the inevitable present.

Its value is of less importance; but of course the position or feelings of the giver are sure to govern


money-cost of the gift. We like the fashion vastly. Whatever tends to bring human beings more closely together, not merely in business and money-getting, but in sympathy and kindness, must be beneficial. We all have infirmities and wants in common, and why not virtuous dispositions and enjoyments ?

Our forefathers were mighty Christmas-keepers. The thousand civic boards groaned under lavish good cheeravailable without stint to all. London was indeed a merry city when the boar's head was inducted with decorous solemnity at every royal merchant's table-when festival peacocks were in request for New Years' dinners, supported by giant sirloins, flanked by turkeys and geeso innumerable. Good eating and drinking (always without gluttony or tipsy-head), with creature comforts generally,

are indispensable to domestic comfort; nor did London lose a cubit of its dignity when our late excellent Lord Mayor, on being solicited to preside at a meeting of teetotallers, Leclined to do so until he had declared that he saw no objection to the moderate use of sound wine.

We shall now select a few notices of old-world customs connected with Christmas and the New Year. Our ancestors used a great variety of drinking cups. Heywood says :

“For drinking cups we have sundry sorts--some of elm, box, maple, and holly-Mason's broad-mouthed dishes, noggens, widenings, piggins, creases, ale bowls, wassel bowls, court dishes, tankards, kannes—from a bottle to a pint, from a pint to a gill. Other bottles we have of leather, but they are most used among shepherds and harvest people. Small jacks we have, in many alehouses of the cities and suburbs, tipped with silver; besides the great black-jacks and bombards at the Court, so that Frenchmen reported in their own country that Englishmen used to drinke out of their boots. We have also cups made out of horns of beasts, of cocoa-nuts; others made of the shells of fishes, brought from the Indies, and shining like mother-of-pearl. Come to plate, every taverne can afford you flat bowles, French bowles, beere bowles, beakers; and private housekeepers in the Citie, when they entertain their friends, can furnish their cupboards with flagons, tankards, beere cups, wine bowles-some white, some parcel gilt.”

Mrs. Quickly speaks of her parcel-gilt goblets-—"some gilt all over, some with covers, and of sundry shapes.” In most drinking vessels it was usual to infuse rosemary. At the New Year, 1558, Queen Elizabeth came to the City in state, and the chronicler says, “How many nosegays did her Grace receive at poor women's hands ! How often stayed she her chariot when she saw any simple body offer

[ocr errors]

to speak to her Grace! A branch of rosemary given to her Grace, with a supplication, by a poor woman, about Fleet Bridge, was seen in her chariot until she came to Westminster."

“January 4, 1667.—Mr. Pepys had a company to dinner at his Citie house, and at night to sup, and then to cards, and last of all to have a flagon of ale and apples, drank out of a wood cup, which made all merry.'

Evelyn writes in his journal, December, 1641, “I was elected one of the Comptrollers of the Middle Temple revellers : : as the fashion of the students was, the Christmas and New Year being kept with great solemnity.”

Here is a curious carol:

[ocr errors]

“ Up, Doll, Peg, Susan-you all spoke to me,

Betimes to call you, and ’tis now past three;
Get upon your butt-ends, and rub your eyes
For shame, no longer lye a-bed, but rise;
The pewter still to scour, and house to clean,
And you a-bed ! good girls, what is't you mean?".

Bellman's Treasury, 1707.

[ocr errors]

The following account of Christmas festivities at the Inner Temple is from a correspondent of the “ YearBook”:

“Church service over, the gentlemen repaired to the hall, and breakfasted on brawn, mustard, and malmsey. At the first course at dinner was served up a fine and large boar's head, upon a silver platter, with minstralsye." This custom was taken from one at Queen's College, Oxford, commemorative of a student who, walking on Shotover Forest, and reading "Aristotle," was attacked by a wild boar. The beast approached him open-mouthed, but the courageous youth rammed in the volume, crying out, "Græcum est !and thus choked his furious opponent.

From a manuscript kept in the Court of Henry VIII.,

« 上一頁繼續 »