Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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silence or mysteries, sometimes called Strenua, then signifying courage. At this time of the feast the fear of the close of the world was supposed to cease, and people mutually gave presents, saying strenue, or courage; hence the word etrennes. The practice, like all others which could be traced at all to the Pagans, was forbidden by many coun≠cils, but, as in other cases, with no lasting effect. Amongst others, the Concilium Autisiodorense, a.d. 614, in France, decreed, that "It is not lawfull in the Kalends of January to make any bonefires or filthy playes; or to observe any diabolical New-Yeares gifts."*
The difference between New-year's gifts* and Christmas boxes appears to be, that the former were mutually exchanged, or, indeed, were some≠times in the nature of an offering from an inferior to a superior, who made some acknowledgment in return, while the latter were in the nature of gratuities from superiors to their dependants. The practice is of considerable antiquity in this country, and formerly it was customary for the nobility and persons connected with the court to make presents to the King, who gave gifts generally of money or plate in return. The servants or officers who carried the gifts also had handsome fees or pre≠sents made them; and it became at last almost a matter of regulation what the amount of them was to be, depending on the rank of the person by whom they were sent, on which the rank of the messenger would also depend: as for instance, in the Northumberland household-book it appears, that his lordship used to give to the King's servant bringing a new-year's gift, if a special friend of his own, £6.13s. 4c?.; if only a servant of the King, £5.
* Prynne, Histrio-Mastix, p. 580.

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