Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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King of Christmas-day, and on Childermass-day another officer called the King of the Cockneys. The practice is now obsolete, unless the Twelfth-night king may be considered as similar for his limited time, and except in those very rare cases where in private parties it is agreed to choose one on any particular occasion during the holidays.
The custom of Christmas-boxes would be more honoured in the breach than the observance, taking into consideration the little sympathy that now exists between the boxers and the boxed. Not­withstanding, it is an old custom. Some have de­rived it from the practice of the monks, to offer masses for the safety of all vessels that went long voyages, in each of which a box was kept in the custody or under the control of the priest. Money, or other valuable consideration, was placed in these to secure the prayers of the church, and they were opened yearly at Christmas, whence they were called Christmas-boxes, and the name was readily transferred to the gifts themselves. Poor persons interested in the fate of these ships, begged money from their wealthier neighbours to enable them to contribute to these boxes.* The practice is, how­ever, probably of pagan origin, like that of New-year's gifts, but differs at present, inasmuch as Christmas-boxes are seldom reciprocal, New-year's gifts frequently are; and the former are generally given to dependants. Apprentices and journey­men, and servants, used to carry about earthen boxes with a slit in them to receive money, and when the time for collecting was over, broke them to obtain the contents. Similar boxes may yet be seen, but principally made of wood. There are many examples of payments to domestics or other
* Brady, Clavis Calendaria, vol. ii. pp. 316-17.

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