Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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counties. Most of the great houses also had a wassel-bowl, or cup, frequently of massy silver.* As the hour of twelve approaches, the carol-singers prepare, and the bell-ringers place themselves at their post to usher in the morning of the Nativity with due rejoicing, and bands of music parade the towns. In some of the parishes in the West of England (and perhaps elsewhere) the carol-singers adjourn to the church to sing in Christmas-day, a remnant probably of popery, as in Catholic coun­tries there was church-service frequently at this time, sometimes interspersed with a species of dra­matic interlude; the peasantry flocking in to pay their adoration to our Saviour and the Virgin in the course of the holidays.
According to popular superstition, it is not man only that recognizes the sanctity of this morning; for the bees are heard to sing, and the labouring oxen may be seen to kneel, in memory of the oxen at the holy manger. Howison, in his " Sketches of Upper Canada," relates the circumstance of his meeting an Indian at midnight on Christmas eve (during a beautiful moonlight) cautiously creeping along, who beckoned him to silence in vain, and in answer to his inquiries said, " Me watch to see the deer kneel; this is Christmas night, and all the deer fall upon their knees to the Great Spirit, and look up." Supposing the Indian to have been converted, but perhaps imperfectly instructed in Christianity, this is a pleasing instance of unaffected adoration.
The first duty of a Christian on Christmas-day is to repair to his church, to return thanks for the benefit conferred on man ; he may then with greater
* Ben Jonson, in his " Masque of Christmas," describes Wassell like a neat sempster and songster; her page bearing a brown bowl dressed with ribbands and rosemary before her.

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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III