Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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xiv
After the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, Christmas was observed as a solemn festival, and the ordinary meetings of the Witten-agemots were then held, as well as at Easter and Whitsuntide, wherever the court happened to be. At these times the Anglo-Saxon kings, and after­wards the Danish kings of England, lived in great state, wore their crowns, and were surrounded by all the great men of their kingdoms (with strangers of rank), who were sumptuously entertained, and the most important affairs of church and state were brought under consideration.
In these, as in more polished ages, the love of dancing appears to have been extended to a fault, for William of Malmsbury relates a story of fifteen young women and eighteen young men dancing and singing (a.d. 1012) in the church-yard of a church dedicated to St. Magnus on the day before Christ­mas, and thereby disturbing one Robert a priest, who was performing mass in the church. In con­sequence of his prayers to that effect, they con­tinued to dance and sing for a whole year without intermission, feeling neither heat, cold, hunger, thirst, weariness, or wear of apparel, and wore away the earth till they were sunk up to the middle.*
The Anglo-Norman kings celebrated these festi­vals with increased splendour, when all the prelates and nobles of the kingdom were, by their tenures, obliged to attend their sovereign to assist in the administration of justice, and in deliberating on the great affairs of the kingdom. On these occasions the king wore his crown, and feasted his nobles in the great hall of his palace, and made them pre-
* Henry's History of England, vol. iv. 327—9.

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