Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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With bays and rosemary,
And laurel compleat, And every one now
Is a king in conceit.
At present great variety is observed in decorat­ing our houses and buildings, and many flowers are introduced that were unknown to our ancestors, but whose varied colours add to the cheerful effect, as the chrysanthemum, satin flower, &c. mingling with the red berry of the holly and the mystic misletoe. In the West of England the myrtle and laurustinum form a pleasing addition. In many parts of Ger­many, and in Sicily, a large bough is set up in the principal room at Christmas time, the smaller branches of which are hung with little presents suitable to the different members of the household. A good deal of innocent mirth and spirit of courtesy is produced by this custom.*
The misletoe, which forms an essential and pro­minent object in these decorations, was looked upon by our Pagan ancestors with a species of venera­tion ; it is supposed to have been the sacred branch referred to by Virgil, in his description of the de­scent to the lower regions; and if so, may be pre­sumed to have been in use in the religious ceremo­nies of the Greeks and Romans, as this description is considered an allegorical representation of some of their mysteries. It is well known that this plant was held sacred by the Druids and the Celtic nations, who attributed valuable medicinal qualities to it, calling it allheal, or in Welsh guidhel. The Gothic nations also attached extraordinary qualities to it, and it is said in the Edda to have been the cause of the death of Balder:
Frigga, when she adjured all the other plants,
* Journal of an Officer in the King's German Legion, 1827, 8vo. p. 281 n.

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