« PreviousContinue »
web of a very large spider, whose premises he had unfortunately trespassed upon. Thus, it is evident that this tiger of an insect des yours creatures larger than itself. If the means by which he is en: abled to do it were common to the beasts of the forest, how dreada ful would be a net spun by the lion or the tiger, from which the horse and his rider could not disentangle themselves, no more than a strong bee can from this pest of the garden.”
[2o be concluded next Month.) “
MR EDITOR, It is astonishing how little is known of the origin and intention of the customs which distinguish this festival. It is understood to bring with it good eating and drinking, and few families are anxious to ascertain any thing more, than the parties they are to visit, or to receive, on Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and Twelfth Night. For the information of those, therefore, who may not be contented with mere beef and pudding, I transmit you the following curious historical and traditionary illustrations. w; THE CUSTOM OF DRESSING CHURCHES AND HOUSES AT CHRISTMAS
WITH HOLLY, &c. &c. Stow, in his Survey of London, tells us, against the feast of Christ mas, every man's house, as also the parish churches, were decked with holme, ivy, bayes, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green : The conduits and standards in the streets were likewise garnished.
In the ancient calendar of the church of Rome, I find the following observation on Christmas Eve :
« Templa exornantur ,
“ Churches are decked.”
When rosemary and bays, the poet's crown,
With laurel green, and sacred misletoe. There is an essay in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1765, in which it is conjectured that the ancient custom of dressing churches and houses, at Christmas, with laurel, box, holly or ivy, was in allusion to many figurative expressions in the prophets, relative to Christ, the branch of righteousness, &c. or that it was in remembrance of the oratory of Wrythers Wands, or Boughs, which was the first christian church erected in Britain. Before we can admit either of these hypotheses, the question must be determined whether or no this custom was not prior to the introduction of the christian faith amongst us. the British Saturnalia, by feasting and sending presents, or new year's gifts, one to another." .
The learned Dr. Chandler observes, that, “ It is related where Druidism prevailed, the houses were decked with ever-greens 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 darling abodes." u i, in CHRISTMAS BOX, .
l :: We are told, in the Athenian Oracle, that the *Christmas-BoxMoney 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 something into the priest's box, which was not to be opened till the ship returned. Sot
The mass at that time was called Christmas; the Bor, Christmas Bor; a 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 enable to pay the priest for his masses, knowing well the truth of the proverb.
. “ No penny, no paternoster."
. .. NEW YEAR'S DAY. . . Bishop Stillingfleet informs us, that “among the Saxons of the Northern Nations, the feast of the new year was observed with more than ordinary jollity: 'thence, as Olaus Wormius and Scheffer observe, they reckoned their age by so many tlolas; and Snorro Sturleson describeth this new year's feast just as Buchannan sets out
This is still retained in public houses and barber's shops ; it is put against the "wall, and every customer puts in something. Mr. Gay mentions it thus :
Some boys are rich by birth, beyond all wants,
Gay's Trivia. . .
The poet Nadgeorgus says, * that it was usual, at that time, for friends to present each other with a new year's gift; for the husband, the wife; the parents, their children; and masters, their servants; which, as † Hospinian tells us, was an ancient custom of the Heathens, and afterwards practised by the Christians. • The very ingenious Scotch writer, Buchannan, presented to the unfortunate Mary queen of Scots, the following singular kind of new year's gift. History is silent concerning the manner in which her majesty received it.
Ad Mariam Scotiæ Reginam:
: TWELFTH DAY. The rites of this day are different in divers places, though the end of them is much the same in all ; namely, to do honour to the memory of the eastern magi, whom they suppose to have been kings. In France, one of the courtiers is chosen king, when the king himself, and the other nobles, attend at an entertainment. In Germany, they observe the same thing on this day in academies and cities, where the students and citizens create one of themselves king, and provide a magnificent banquet for him, and give him the attendance of a king, or a stranger guest. Now this is answerable to that custom of the Saturnalia, of masters making banquets for their servants, and waiting on them; and no doubt this custom has in part sprung from that.
Not many years ago, this was a common Christmas gambol, in both our universities; and it is still usual in other places of our land, to give the name of king or queen to that person whose luck hits upon that part of the divided cake, which is honoured above the others with the sacred name of majesty,
More particulars will be learned of the manner of drawing king and queen, from a letter preserved in the Universal Magazine,
Hosp. de Orig. Fest. Christ. P. 41.
1774; whence I shall take the liberty of extracting a few passages. “ I went to a friend's house in the country, to partake of some of those innocent pleasures that constitute a merry Christmas; I did not return till I had been present at drawing king and queen, and eaten a slice of the twelfth cake. After ten, yesterday, a noble cake was produced, and two bowls containing the fortunate chances for the different sexes." . . . . . ;. . ; ..,14 According to the twelfth day low, each party is to support their character till midnight." in iis
Sometimes the characters have a poetical description, in the manner of the following, which are from the pens of a late field marshal, and a dignified clergyman, now living; those written by the latter are distinguished by an asterisk. They have not before been printed.
..10 i King . ..
Just from my pious convent fled,
Cinder Wench. Tho' from my business I may be
A little smutty, as you see, Yet with the flames which I've bestow'd, Full many a gentle swain has glow'd. And since all mortals here below Are dust and ashes, as we know; Duchess or cinder-wench, 'tis all the same, And Cinderella's only chang'd in name.