Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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xvi
tians endeavoured to intermingle it with their own observances during the Christmas holidays, although the more devout celebrated the Nativity by prayer, thanksgiving, and psalm-singing.
In the council, generally called Concilium Africa-num, held a.d. 408, " Stage-playes and spectacles are forbidden on the Lord's-day, and other solemae Christian festivalls." Theodosius the younger, in his laws de Spectaculis, in 425, forbade shows or games on the Nativity, and some other feasts. In the council of Auxerre in Burgundy, in 578, dis-guisings are again forbidden; but these canons were not duly attended to, for at another council in 614 it was found necessary to repeat them in stronger terms, declaring it to be unlawful to make any filthy plays upon the Kalends of January.
The ecclesiastics are said to have introduced miracle-plays and scripture histories about the end of the eleventh century, and they were become common in the time of Henry the Second. The secular plays, which they were intended to replace, were of a comic nature, with coarse jests intro­duced, accompanied by music, dancing, mimicry, &c. and principally performed by strolling minstrels. The clergy, now adding instruction to amusement, found the representation of their plays very effective in withdrawing the populace from the licentiousness of the secular performances, and consequently en­deavoured to render the construction of them more interesting and the machinery more imposing. They were at first of a very homely nature, and in many instances the effect is ludicrous to our modernized taste. Thus, in the Chester Myste­ries,* Noah's wife refuses to go into the ark without
* Produced in 1268, according to Collier's History of Dramatic Poetry, a work that contains much valuable information.

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