Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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cake being thrown against the outside door of each house by the head of the family, to keep out hunger during the ensuing year. The New Year is rung, in, and bands of music parade the towns as on Christmas morn, and in some places (though get­ting nearly obsolete) the bellman goes round with a copy of verses wishing a merry Christmas and happy New Year.
New Year's Day, or the first of January, was kept by the Romans as a feast in honour of Janus; and according to Brady,* the first mention of it as a Christian festival was in 487, under Pope Felix the Third, who called it the octave of Christmas ; it having been originally kept by the more zealous primitive Christians as a fast, to distinguish it from the customs of the heathens. Under the title of the Circumcision, it is only to be traced from the end of the 11th century; and it was not generally so observed, until it was included in our Liturgy in the year 1550. It was, however, a day of feast­ing for some centuries before this, and, with Christ­mas-day and Twelfth-day, one of the most marked days throughout the holidays. After Edward the Third had fought incognito in a severe battle at Calais, under the banners of Sir Walter de Manny, and overcome the French on the 31st day of Dec. 1348, he entertained the captive knights on the following day, to celebrate the New Year. Henry the Eighth, in the early part of his reign, (before the uncontrolled indulgence of his passions had de­moralized a disposition naturally impetuous,) was fond of Christmas revellings, as before mentioned; and New Year's day, or night, was frequently fixed on for some imposing pageant, according to the style of that age; of which one instance may be
* Cliavis Caleudaria,vol. i. p. 135.

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