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sion were used ra the Saturnalia processions ; while the customary presents were intended to typify the spiritual and heavenly gifts, which our Saviour, by his coming, had lavished upon mankind. With respect to the Lord of Misrule, already mentioned, he might, probably, have been a character from the Saturnalia, but it is not certain, his exact origin being lost in the obscurity of time. He was, however, in his attributes, for the time being, absolute king, to whom was assigned uncontrollable sovereignity, not only over the servants, but also over the immediate members of the family.
Angelina. His lordship's reign appears then to be entirely at an end, for he is totally unknown! to us at the present day; and yet, considering his former popularity and power, it is surprising there should be no trace of his humourous existence. What were his particular duties?
William. We are told by Stow, the historian, that during the entire period of his sway, "there were fine and subtle disguisings, masks, and mummeries." It appears that each parish had their lord, who ruled and directed their sports; and that the mayor and sheriffs of the city of London, besides a fool, had each a sovereign of mummeries in their establishments; while the grave lawyers of Lincoln's Inn were wont to pay him their court.
Mr. Constance. Yes; and royalty itself is said to have countenanced this Christmas custom; for we are told that King Edward the Sixth appointed one George Ferrers, a poet, lawyer, and historian, to be his " Lord of the Pastimes." That the clergy were not backward in this festival season, has been already shown by their customary election of a Boy Bishop; but they were more immediately concerned in the revels at Christmas Day, by their nominating, at each of the Universities, a "King of the Bean," and a " Bishop of Fools," a sort of clericle. Lord of Misrule, 1 suppose; for it is said that he attended divine service in pantomimical dresses, followed by crowds of persons in masks. The reign of the popular Lord of Misrule began on Allhallow's Eve, and continued until the eve of Purification.
Mr. Constance. And there is still another custom prevalent in some Catholic countries, that would tend to confirm, (if further confirmation were necessary,) that our festival of Christmas is derived from the source we have already mentioned. It is in the dressing up, and hiding, on Christmas Eve, a variety of puppets, called Christmas children, and giving a reward to the finder of them. Now we learn from an ancient almanack, that it was customary during the Saturnalia, to present sweetmeats as well as all kinds of " little images " to the Roman fathers in the Vatican; and that in England as well as in Rome, the confectioners' shops abounded with sweetmeat-images, which were presented to their customers in the same way as chandlers give Christmas candles.
Charles. And yet, out of all these characters, and out of all these customs, the people of the present day have not a single fool, or Lord of Misrule to guide them, and their Christmas is left without a character, and as having no one point worth describing.
Angelina. I ask your pardon, Charles, we are not Wt in that state of destitution: and that we have a character by which we may be known, I think I can undertake to show. True, we have no Boy Bishop, nor Lord of Misrule, no Bishop of Fools, nor King of the Bean; but we have that which is infinitely superior to either— domestic enjoyment—friendly endearments. And if the ancients could boast of their Christmas feastings, so also can the moderns. For do not our confectionaries abound with delicacies, and our groceries with sweets? Do not eur fruiterers display their seasonable store, tastefully decorated with evergreens and the scarlet berry? Are not the well-stocked shambles in the markets perfect studies for a limner's eye? Then, for harmonious sounds, are we not saluted, by the midnight minstrel, with " music, made by distance still more sweet "? and aroused from our morning's slumbers by the bellman's summoning peal 1 And also, ere the day has well dawned, we hear the ancient chant of "God rest you, merry gentlemen," from the tremulous accents of some wandering carolist; which characteristic benediction has scarce died away, ere we are summoned, by the chiming of the church bells, to the pious celebration of an event, which dispelled darkness from the world, and cheered us with the assurance of an immortality beyond the grave. And then, again, is not the festive board of noon surrounded by friends from distant parts, each congratulating the other with the happy termination of the old, and building hopes on the new year? Do we not meet our brothers and sisters from school, whose glistening eyes, ruddy cheeks, and joyous countenances hold a worthy rivalry with the sparkling of our seasonable fires, surmounted, if not with a log so large, yet equally combustible with those of olden time? And though we may not be able to boast of the general service of the wassail-bowl, still it is not entirely extinct; and where it is omitted, something less potent is substituted—something that will " cheer, though not inebriate." Why then should we sigh for past indulgences, and lament that our Christmas has lost its character, when each little family have it within their power to make the festival, if not a season of
. Pomp, and feast, and revelry, With mask and antique pageantry,
at least a season of joyful meeting and affectionate delight?
This defence of the modern Christmas by the ever-happy Angelina, appeared to infuse new spirits into our little circle, who proved, by the fondness with which they dwelt upon the subject, that however coolly this season might be anticipated by older heads, the younger hearts can neither forget the pleasures they have experienced in years gone by, nor cease to anticipate enjoyment in those to come. Fondly did they recall the joyous hours of the past, and luxuriate in the delights of the approaching festival. Young Arthur, who possessed all the spirits and vivacity of his sister, took the lead amongst the minors, and made their little hearts leap within them, when he recounted, with all the warmth of an enthusiast, the fun and frolic of their last Christmas season:—how they had tumbled about at blind-man's buff—how they had snapped up the snap-dragon—and how they might still hope to do so again. And, in assisting his sister to enumerate what we have, instead of deploring what we have not got left to us in the wreck of festivals and rejoicings,—he did not forget the mince-pies and plum-puddings, nor all the important et ceteras of the feast; exclaiming, in a tone that was rich as the joys he anticipated: "What do you think of these, Charles? Haven't we got the sweets?" "No," replied his cousin, "we have not." "Well," added Arthur, " perhaps we have not now got them, but by the smile which I see on mamma's face, I am sure that we shall have: and as to our want of a Christmas character, as you say, is it not made up to us by the characters of Twelfth Night?"
This innocent play upon a word obtained no small share of applause for Master Arthur. Indeed, the company were just then in the temper for innocent mirth; and it was not until Mr. Constance had reminded William that there was a name standing opposite to the 26th, in our calendar, which required their serious attention, that quietness was restored,
William. You mean St. Stephen, Sir, I suppose.
Mr. Constance. I do: please to favour us with a notice of his life arid sufferings.
William. No account of the country or kindred of St. Stephen has been transmitted to us, further than that he was a Jew, and probably born at Jerusalem. He is described as a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and one who " did great wonders and miracles among the people." He was one of the seventy disciples, and the first of the seven deacons appointed to manage the fund established for the relief of the poor belonging to the infant church of Christ. The office of deacon was one of trust ind consequence. In addition to their charitable distribution of this fund, they were empowered to preach the gospel, and to baptize converts. St. Stephen, zealous in the cause he had espoused, soon attracted the notice of the Mosaic elders, who endeavoured in vain to controvert his doctrines. They cited him before the Sanhedrim, or Jewish Council, to answer a charge made against him of having prophesied that " Jesus of Nazareth should destroy their temple and their law." In his defence, which he conducted with inflexible firmness, he supported his prophetic warning, and boldly reviewed the history of the Jews from the time of Abraham; charging their forefathers with persecuting the prophets of old, and upbraiding their present generation with the betrayal and murder of the Messiah.
Mr. Constance. In the 6th and 7th chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, you will find an interesting detail of these circumstances; as also an account of his martyrdom. The abrupt, yet manly close of his defence, has been admired for its force, and for the evidence it affords of the intrepidity of character remarkable in the sainted deacon. "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears," he said, addressing himself to the council of the