Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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1
In many parts of the kingdom, especially in the northern and western parts, this festival is still kept up with spirit among the middling and lower classes, though its influence is on the wane even with them; the genius of the present age requires work and not play, and since the commencement of this century a great change may be traced. The modern instructors of mankind do not think it ne­cessary to provide for popular amusements, con­sidering mental improvement the one thing needful: and to a great extent they may be right; the exercise of the mind among the working classes serving as a relaxation to bodily labour ; as bodily exercise or athletic games serve to relieve from great mental exertion. Conferring on the labour­ing classes the power of mental recreation, of which they were in general incapable but a few years since, is like bestowing on them an additional sense, and of the highest value if properly directed. Still a cheerful observance of the great festivals of the year may well combine with this popular rage for reading, and the " Schoolmaster" might allow his Christmas holidays to be something more than a mere cessation from labour for a day or two. They might be observed with hospitality and innocent revelry, joined to the religious observances by which as Christians we are bound to shew our gratitude for the unbounded mercy vouchsafed us: for the fulfilment of a promise pronounced in the earliest ages of the world, which was to release us from the dominion of Satan ; a promise which even the Pagans in their traditions never lost sight of, although they confused its import with their own superstitious ceremonies, through the darkness of which its glimmering may be traced.
The commencement of this feast is on the eve preceding the Nativity, having been announced by

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