Abbildungen der Seite

Christmas Bores or Presents. The custom of annual donations at Christmas and on New Year's Day is very antient, being copied by the Christians from the Polytheists of Rome, at the time the public religion was changed: as we have already noticed under Jan. 1, page 2, of this Calendar. These presents, nowadays, are more commonly made on the morrow of Christmas. From this circumstance the festival of St. Stephen has got the nickname of Christmas Boxing Day, and by corruption Boxing Day.

In London, and in many other parts of Europe, large families and establishments keep regular lists of tradesmen's servants, apprentices, and other persons, who come about making a sort of annual claim on them for a Christmas Box on this day. The practice, however, is declining; and in some places is now confined to children. For Parish Boys, and children at School, bring about their samples of writing, and ask for money; and the Bellman, the Watchman, the Waits, and the Church Band, still repeat their wonted annual calls on the hospitable feelings with which a smoking Christmas board of Turkey, plum pudding, and minced pies, inspires the pious head of an old fashioned family mansion.

But this Season is particularly dear to children, who anxiously count on their little Christmas Boxes for months beforehand. So in the Kinderlied or Child's Song

Now Christmas is come, and now Pappy's come home,

Wi' a Pegtop for Tammie, a Hussif for Sue;
A new Bag o' Marbles for Dick; and for Joan,

A Workbox: for Phoebe a Bow for her Shoe;
For Cecily singing a Humming Top comes,

For dull drowsie Marie a Sleeping Top meet;
For Ben, Ned, and Harry, a Fife and two Drums,

For Jenuie a Box of nice Sugar Plumbs sweet. The above Poem is so far incorrect, the sports of children belonging respectively to different Seasons of the year, so that a Calendar might be made of them; consequently, too great a diversity of playthings are not to be noted as belonging to Christmas. In a Poem, entitled Christmas, we read :

Gladly, the Child, with Christmas Box in band,
Throughout the town his devious route pursues ;
And, of its master's customers, implores
The yearly mite: often his cash he shakes;
The which, perchance, of coppers few consists
Whose dulcet jingle fills its little soul
With joy as boundless as the debtor feels,
When, from the bailift's rude, uncivil gripe
His friends redeem him, and with pity fraught,
The claims of all his creditors discharge.

We are told, in the Athenian Oracle, vol. i. p. 360, that the Christmas Box money is derived from hence. The Romish Priests had Masses said for almost every thing: if a ship went out to the Indies, the Priests had a Box in her, under the protection of some Saint: and for Masses, as their cant was, to be said for them to that Saint, &c. the poor people must put in something into the Priests' Box, which was not opened till the ship's return. The Mass at that time was called Christmass: the Box called Christmass Box, or money gathered against that time, that Masses might be made by the Priests to the Saints to forgive the people the debaucheries of that time: and from this, servants had the liberty to get box money, that they too might be enabled to pay the

Priest for his Masses, knowing well the truth of the proverb: “ No Penny, no Pater Nosters.”

Hildebrand says: “ Denique in nostris Ecclesiis nocte natali Parentes varia munuscula, Crepundia, Cistellas, Vestes, Vehicula, Poma, Nuces, liberis suis donant, quibus plerumque Virga additur, ut metu castigationis eo facilius regantur. Dantur hæc munuscula nomine S. Christi, quem per tegulas vel fenestras illabi, vel cum Angelis domos obire fingunt. Mos iste similiter à Saturnalibus Gentilium descendere videtur, in quibus Ethnicos sportulas sive varia Munera ultro citroque misisse, antiquissimus patrum Tertullianus meminit in Lib. de Persecut."

At one time Christmas Boxes, like the vails or vales usually given to waiters and servants, became a source of very inconvenient extortion, and a real tax on comfort and visiting; this is now quite laid aside, and the gifts are become quite voluntary,

On this day the principal inhabitant, or Squire of the Village, used to give a party; the Parson, and the Apothecary, and the most respectable neighbours being invited. After dinner there used to be singing, and music used to succeed to the glees in the evening, when Beviamo tutti tre and the Merry Christ Church Bells used to give place to Corelli and Handel.

Games at Christmas.Something should be said, perhaps, of the various sports, games, and pastimes of this season of hilarity, such as the Lord of Misrule, Hot Cockles, Hunt the Slipper, Fool Plough, He can do little that can't do this, and other amusements. But it would swell our work beyond its limits, and we must be content to refer to Brand's Popular Antiquities; and to Mr. Hone's Mysteries, a recent work of considerable erudition and curiosity.

In “ The Vindication of Christmas, or his Twelve Yeares Observations upon the Times," 4to, Lond. 1653, a very rare

Tract, quoted by Brand, Old Christmas is introduced describing the former annual Festivities of the Season as follows : “ After dinner we arose from the boord and sate by the fire, where the harth was embrodered all over with roasted Apples, piping hot, expecting a Bole of Ale for a cooler, which immediately was transformed into Lamb's Wool. After which we discoursed merrily, without either prophaness or obscenity; some went to Cards, others sang Carols and pleasant Songs, suitable to the times; then the poor labouring Hinds and Maids went nimbly to dancing; the poor toyling wretches being glad of my company, because they had little or no sport at all till I came amongst them; and therefore they skipped and leaped for joy, singing a Carol to the tune of Hey,

"Let's dance and sing, and make good cheer,

For Christmass comes but once a year.' “ Thus at active Games and Gambols of Hot Cockles, Shooing the Wild Mare, and the like harmless sports, some part of the tedious night was spent, and early in the morning I took my leave of them, promising they should have my presence again the next 25th of December.”

Now lads and lasses gay appear,
Sweet music fills the hallowed air,
The mellow Bells are ringing round,
And Cocks their merry clarions sound;
While they perpetual vigil keep
To guard from sprites the hour of sleep;
With Carol now, and merry Song,
We will beguile the evening long,
With Pipe and Bowl, and homely cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year;
Let's tell old tales, and drink about,
While still our log is burning out.

December 27. St. John Apostle and Evangelist.

St. Theodorus Grapt Confessor. St. John the Evangelist, who is styled in the Gospel the Beloved Disciple of Jesus Christ, was a Galilean, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother to St. James the Great.

This day is the Jewish Festival of Lighting the Lamps, or the Dedication of the Second Temple by the Maccabees, after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes, and when the holy vessels were again set apart for its service. During this festival, the Jews return thanks for the victories obtained by their ancestors over the Greeks that invaded the Holy Land. At this time, in remembrance of a miracle said to

have been wrought by the seal of the High Priest upon the only flask of oil which remained unpolluted, they light up lamps eight evenings alternately, beginning with one lamp the first evening, and increasing one every time in succession, till there are eight. As, before the High Priest had sealed this flask, it only contained oil sufficient for one day, but which was made by a miracle to last eight, the same period is observed in its celebration.

CHRONOLOGY.—THE COMET.—This day, in the year 1823, brilliant Comet was announced as having been seen in the south east, a little before sunrise, for a day or two past. It has been stated in one of the Papers, to have been the Comet whose return was foretold by Halley, This, however, is a mistake: the present Comet may have been predicted, or its elements may turn out to agree with some one formerly seen; but the memorable Comet foretold by Halley, appeared first in 1456, and successively in the years 1531, in 1607, in 1682, and in 1758. And it ought to be noted, that, according to the period which these observations assign to it, this great Comet will appear again about the year 1833. For an account of Comets, see Article Comet, in Rees's Cyclopedia; also Professor Schumacher's recent Paper on Comets.

St. John the Evangelist's Day.-- The following poetical account is given by Barnaby Googe, of the custom of giving wine on the Festival of St. John the Evangelist, in the Popish Kingdome, fol. 45. Nexte John the sonne of Zebadee hath his appoynted day, Who once by cruell Tyraunts will, constrayned was they say Strong poyson up to drivke; therefore the Papistes doe beleeve That whoso puts their trust in him, no poyson them can greeve: The wine beside that halowed is in worship of his name, The Priestes doe give the people that bring money for the same. And after with the selfe same wine are little manchets made Agaynst the boystrous Winter stormes, and sundrie such like trade. The men upon this solemne day, do take this holy wine To make them strong, so do the maydes to make them faire and fine.

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, 8vo. Edinb. 1793, vol. viii. p. 399, parish of Duffus, County of Moray, we read : “ Our common people here still celebrate, perhaps without ever thinking of the origin of the practice, St. John's Day, St. Stephen's Day, Christmas Day, &c. by assembling in large companies to play at Foot Ball

, and to dance and make merry

Hygeia. Colds are liable at all times of the year to attack persons predisposed to them; but, from happening more frequently in the Winter months, they are vulgarly ascribed to accidental exposure to damp and cold, although no fact is more notorious than that when an epidemical Catarrh prevails, and we believe all colds are more or less epidemical, it very often first attacks some person in the house who does not stir out.of doors. There must be in this, as

in other cases of epidemics, some predisposition of constitution at the time, as necessary to colds, or else all persons would be attacked; but the whole history of colds and coughs shews them to prevail in consequence of something particular in the state or changes of the Air; and, as they happen in all kinds of weather, it seems that this quality of theirs is not at present ascertainable by any of our known instruments. In colds, coughs, and other complaints of this sort, the best remedies are really found to be the simplest ; and if, instead of having recourse to quackery, people would immediately clear their bowels by medicine, and live on diluting and vegetable drinks, they would sooner get well of them, and be less likely to superinduce their termination in other complaints.

PAUNA.-We have observed at this time of the year that rare and occasional visitor the Longtailed Titmouse Maecistura vagans, to be found on the large Beech Trees of Groves and Forests; and also in Hedges and Gardens. They appear also at other Seasons, but always at irregular intervals, Fieldfares, Redwings, and the Winter Birds in general, still abound; and in open weather large flocks of Kooks, Jackdaws, and Starlings, feed together in the stubble fields and meadows.

December 28. The Holy Innocents. St. Theodorus

Abbot and Confessor The Festival of the Holy Innocents or Childermas Day is intended to commemorate the slaughter of the Jewish children by Herod. It is recorded by Macrobius, that the base and cruel order of Herod was so promptly executed, that even one of the sons of the tyrant, then at nurse, fell a sacrifice with the other children. In allusion to the festivals of St. Stephen, St. John, and that of Innocents, Mr.Wheatley has observed, that, as there are three kinds of martyrdom, the first, both in will and deed, which is the highest; the second in will, but not iu deed; the third in deed, but not in will; so the Church commemorates these martyrs in the same order. St. Stephen first, who suffered both in will and deed; St. John next, who suffered in will, but not in deed; the Holy Innocents last, who suffered in deed, but not in will.

This was formerly esteemed a day of very unlucky omens; there was a custom, as the learned Gregory tells us, among thrifty housewives, to whip up the children at an early hour on Childermas Day.

See Cotgrave's Dict., the Diction, de Furetière, and Diction. de Trevoux, v. INNOCENTES.

« ZurückWeiter »