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schools here in England', (as in that of Burford in Oxfordshire, saith my author,) for a feast and a play-day. St. Nicholas is likewise the patron saint of fishermen. The church at Great Yarmouth, built by Bishop Herbert, is said by Sir Henry Spelman to be a very famous church dedicated to St. Nicholas, enriched and endowed with the offerings of the fishermen”.
8.-CONCEPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY. This festival was instituted by Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, because William the Conqueror's fleet, being in a storm, afterwards came safe to shore. The council of Oxford, however, held in 1222, permitted every one to use his discretion in keeping it.
13.-SAINT LUCY. This virgin martyr was born at Syracuse. She refused to marry a young man who paid his addresses to her, because she had determined to devote herself to religion, and, to prevent his importunities, gave her whole fortune to the poor. The youth, enraged at this denial, accused her before Paschasius, the heathen judge, of professing Christianity; and Lucy, after much cruel treatment, fell a martyr to his revenge, in the year 305.
16.-0 SAPIENTIA. This is the beginning of an anthem in the Latin service to the honour of Christ's advent, which used to be sung in the church from this day until Christmas eve.
21. -SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE. Thomas, surnamed Didymus, or the Twin, was a Jew, and in all probability a Galilean. There are but few passages in the gospel concerning him. Thomas is said to have suffered martyrdom in the same city, being killed by the lances of some people instigated by the Bramins.
i Dr. Heylin's Cosmog. on the place. * History of Great Yarmouth, p. 131.
This is the shortest day, and is, at London, 7 h. 44 m. 17 s.; allowing 9m. 5s. for refraction.
JASPER MAYNE. 25.-CHRISTMAS DAY. The feast of our Saviour's nativity was undoubtedly celebrated in the early ages of Christianity; for we are told that, under the persecution of Maximinus, that emperor burnt a church at Nicomedia, which was filled with Christians assembled to keep this festival. St. Gregory terms it the festival of festivals ; and St. Chrysostom, the chief of all festivals. It is named Christmas-day, from the Latin Christi Missa, the Mass of Christ, and thence the Roman Catholic Liturgy is termed their Missal or Mass Book. About the year 500, the observation of this day became general in the Catholic church.
For an account of various customs formerly observed in England at this season, we refer to our seven previous volumes.
There is one portion of the winter (observes an amiable writer) when the fire-side, from the customary convivialities of the period, becomes peculiarly
attractive. I allude to the season of Christmas, a festival which, from a vivid recollection of the manner of its celebration in the North about forty years ago, has been indissolubly associated in my mind with all the delightful reminiscenoes of early life; blending the rainbow visions of youth and unalloyed hope, with those religious feelings and innocent recreations which give to the close of the year so hallowed, and, at the same time, so exhilarating an aspect.
"With what a soothing melancholy, as the blast sweeps across my shutters and whistles round my room, do I often sit by the fire-side on the dark nights of December, and call to mind the festive pleasures of a northern Christmas eve;
The happy night,
Brought tidings of salvation down; . . . when, after having surrounded the yule-clog, as it lay in ponderous majesty on the kitchen floor, and each had sung bis yule-song, standing on its centre, we consigned it to the flames that
Went roaring up the chimney wide, and, tripping across the hall, sprang with joyous faces into the parlour, where the tale, the dance, and the game, the minced-pie, and the spiced bowl, rendered doubly sweet by the approving smiles of our delighted parents, completed our satisfaction.
It is in combination with imagery such as this, which, in the morning of life, spread as it were, a fairy mantle over the severest rigours of the season; that winter, independent of the attractions arising from its awful and sublime scenery, ever after charms. Well may those, who are still wise enough to cherish the feelings of these enviable hours, and love to see them remembered in the sparkling eyes and joyous gambols of their own children, deprecate,
with our Poet Laureate, the misrepresentation of the season as cheerless and severe:
They should have drawn thee by the high-caped hearth,
Old WINTER ! seated in thy great armed chair,
Or cireled by them, as thy lips declare
Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night;
Or taste the old October, brown and bright": In the very attractive novel of "The Abbot' (attributed to Sir Walter Scott) we have the following admirable picture of an old custom, at one time common in England about Christmas time, and ealled the election of an • Abbot of Unreason:' The crowd was composed of men, women, and children, ludicrously disguised in various habits, and presenting groups equally diversified and ludicrous. Here one fellow with a horse's head painted before him, and a tail behind, and the whole covered with a long foot-cloth, which was supposed to hide the body of the animal, ambled, caracoled, pranced, and plunged, as he performed the celebrated part of the hobbie-horse, so often alluded to in our antient drama; and which still flourishes on the stage in the battle that concludes Bayes's tragedy. To rival the address and agility displayed by this character, another personage advanced in the more formidable character of a huge dragon, with gilded wings, open jaws, and a scarlet tongue, cloven at the end, which made various efforts to overtake and devour a lad, dressed as the lovely Sabæa, daughter of the king of Egypt, who fled before him; while a martial Saint George, grotesquely armed with a goblet for a helmet, and a spit for a lance, ever and anon interfered, and compelled the monster to relinquish his prey. A bear, a wolf, and one or two other wild animals, played their parts with the discretion of
''Drake's Winter Nights, vol. i, p. 14.
Snug the joiner; for the decided preference which they gave to the use of their hind legs, was sufficient, without any formal annunciation, to assure the most timorous spectators that they had to do with habitual bipeds. There was a group of outlaws, with Robin Hood and Little John at their head, the best representation exhibited at the time; and no great wonder, since most of the actors were, by profession, the banished men and thieves whom they represented. Other masqueraders there were of a less marked description. Men were disguised as women, and women as men, children wore the dress of aged people, and tottered with crutch-sticks in their hands, furred gowns on their little backs, and caps on their round heads, while grandsires assumed the infantine tone as well as the dress of children. Besides these, many had their faces painted, and wore their shirts over the rest of their dress; while coloured pasteboard and ribands furnished out.. decorations for others. Those who wanted all these properties, blacked their faces and turned their jackets inside out; and thus the transmutation of the whole assembly into a set of mad grotesque mummers was at once completed.
Christmas as it was, two hundred years ago, is faithfully depicted in the following merry Carol by
George Wither;' in which it will be seen, the same complaints prevailed then, as of late, in regard to the decay of hospitality, the hardship of the times, and the extravagances practised in the upper classes of life.
So now is come our joyfulst feast;
Let every man be jolly ;
· And every post with holly,
And let us all be merry.
And Christmas blocks are burning;