Christmas: Its Origin and Associations Together with Its Historical Events and Festive Celebrations During Nineteen Centuries

Religion/
#Religion #Holidays
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Excerpt PREFACE. In the third quarter of the nineteenth century, it fell to my lot to write an article on Christmas, its customs and festivities. And, although I sought in vain for a chronological account of the festival, I discovered many interesting details of its observances dispersed in the works of various authors; and, while I found that some of its greater celebrations marked important epochs in our national history, I saw, also, that the successive celebrations of Christmas during nineteen centuries were important links in the chain of historical Christian evidences. I became enamoured of the subject, for, in addition to historical interest, there is the charm of its legendary lore, its picturesque customs, and popular games. It seemed to me that the origin and hallowed associations of Christmas, its ancient customs and festivities, and the important part it has played in history combine to make it a most fascinating subject. I resolved, therefore, to collect materials for a larger work on Christmas. Henceforth, I became a snapper-up of everything relating to Christmastide, utilised every opportunity of searching libraries, bookstalls, and catalogues of books in different parts of the country, and, subsequently, as a Reader of the British Museum Library, had access to that vast storehouse of literary and historical treasures. Soon after commencing the work, I realised that I had entered a very spacious field of research, and that, having to deal with the accumulated materials of nineteen centuries, a large amount of labour would be involved, and some years must elapse before, even if circumstances proved favourable, I could hope to see the end of my task. Still, I went on with the work, for I felt that a complete account of Christmas, ancient and modern, at home and abroad, would prove generally acceptable, for while the historical events and legendary lore would interest students and antiquaries, the holiday sports and popular celebrations would be no less attractive to general readers. The love of story-telling seems to be ingrained in human nature. Travellers tell of vari-coloured races sitting round their watch fires reciting deeds of the past; and letters from colonists show how, even amidst forest-clearing, they have beguiled their evening hours by telling or reading stories as they sat in the glow of their camp fires. And in old England there is the same love of tales and stories. One of the chief delights of Christmastide is to sit in the united family circle and hear, tell, or read about the quaint habits and picturesque customs of Christmas in the olden time; and one of the purposes of CHRISTMAS is to furnish the retailer of Christmas wares with suitable things for re-filling his pack. From the vast store of materials collected it is not possible to do more than make a selection. How far I have succeeded in setting forth the subject in a way suited to the diversity of tastes among readers I must leave to their judgment and indulgence; but I have this satisfaction, that the gems of literature it contains are very rich indeed; and I acknowledge my great indebtedness to numerous writers of different periods whose references to Christmas and its time-honoured customs are quoted....
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