Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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xxxviii
at Christmas, or at any other times :* which proves such a licence to have been requisite.
The noblemen and gentlemen of fortune lived when in the country like petty princes, and in the arrangement of their households copied that of their sovereigns, having officers of the same name and import, and even heralds wearing their coat of arms at Christmas, and other solemn feasts, crying largesse thrice at the proper times. They feasted in their halls, where many of the Christmas sports were performed. When coals began to be intro­duced, the hearth was commonly in the middle, whence, according to Aubrey, is the saying, " Round about our coal-fire." Christmas was considered as the commemoration of a holy festival, to be ob­served with cheerfulness as well as devotion. The comforts and personal gratification of their depend­ants were provided for by the landlords, their merriment encouraged, and their sports joined. The working man looked forward to Christmas as the portion of the year which repaid his former toils; and gratitude for the worldly comforts then received would occasion him to reflect on the eter­nal blessings bestowed on mankind by the event then commemorated.
Herrick, a writer of the former part of the 17 th Century, in " A New Yeares Gift sent to Sir Simeon Steward," included in his " Hesperides," sings
" Of Christmas sports, the wassel-boule, That tost up after Fox-i'-th'-hole; Of Blind-man-buffe, and of the care That young men have to shooe the Mare; Of twelf-tide cakes, of pease and beanes, Wherewith ye make those merry sceanes,
* Collier's History, vol. ii. p. 89, note.

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