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yet all agree in the same end, to do honour to the Eastera Magi, who are supposed to have been of royal dignity. It is in the South of England where the customs of this day are most prevalent. They are thus described by Brand. After tea, a cake is produced, and two bowls, containing the fortunate chances for the different sexes. The host fills up the tickets, and the whole company, except the king and queen, are to be ministers of state, and maids of honour, or ladies of the bedchamber. Often the host and hostess, more by design than accident, become king and queen. The twelfthcake was made formerly of plums, with a bean and pea :who found the former, was king; who got tħe latter, was queen. The chusing of a king and queen, by a bean in å piece of divided cake, was formerly a common Christmas gambol in both the universities.
CHRISTMAS Boxes are derived from a custom of the ancients, of giving New Year's Gifts. In papal times, the priests had their Christmas box, in which were kept the sum they levied on the people for prayers, and granting absolution for síns.
Decking houses and churches with ever-greens is another custom of pagan origin. The ancient Druids decked theit houses with holly and ivy in December, that the sylvan spirits might repair to them, and remain unnipped by the frost and cold winds till a milder season had renewed the foliage of their favourite abodes.
But for a more particular account of Christmas customs and festivities we must refer the reader to Mr. Brand's large work, or to Washington Irving. I shall conclude with a good old Christmas carol from Poor Robin's Almanack, for 1695, and preserved in Brand's POPULAR ANTIQUITIES.
A CHRISTMAS SONG.
Which brings us good cheer :
Good ale, and strong beer;
The best that may be :
And our stomachs agree,
Observe how the chimneys
Do smoak all about ; The cooks are providing
For dinner, no doubt ; But those on whose tables
No victuals appear,
All the rest of the year! With holly and ivy,
So green and so gay, We deck up our houses,
As fresh as the day; With bays and rosemary,
And laurel complete; And every one now
Is a king in conceit.
But as for curmudgeons
Who will not be free,
On a three-legged tree!
It would occupy a large volume merely to engmerate the superstitions practices still prevalent in different parts of the country, many of which are observed in the metropolis ; and even well-educated persons will call to mind with what avidity in childhood they listened to nursery tales of giants, dwarfs, ghosts,- fairies, and witches. The effect of these juvenile impressions are not easily got the better of, and the impressions themselves rarely, if ever, forgotten.
To doubt, in former times, the power of charms, and the veracity of omens and ghost-stories, was deemed little less than atheism; and the terror caused by them, frequently embittered the lives of persons of all ages; by almost shutting them out of their own houses, and deterring them from going abroad after dark. The room in which the head of a family died was for a long time untenanted; particularly if they died without a will, or were supposed to have entertained any particular religious opinion. If any disconsolate old maiden or love-crossed bachelor happened to despatch themselves in their garters, the room where the fatal deed was perpetrated was rendered for ever after uninhabitable, and not unfrequently nailed up. If a drunken farmer, says Grose, returning from market, fell from Old Dobbin and broke his neck-or a carter, in the same predicament, tumbled from his cart or waggon, and was killed by it--that spot ever after was haunted and impassable : in short, there was scarcely a byelane or cross-way, but had its ghost, who appeared in the shape of a headless cow or horse ; or, clothed all in white, glared, with baleful eye, over some lonely gate or stile. Ghosts of higher degree rode in coaches, drawn by six headless horses, and driven by a headless coachman and postillion. Almost every manor house was haunted by some of its former masters or mistresses, where, besides other noises, that of telling money was distinctly heard : and as for the church
yards, the number of ghosts that swarmed there, according to the village computation, equalled the living parishioners, and to pass through them was a far more perilous enterprise than the storming of Badajos!
Terrible and inconvenient as these superstitions might be, they were harmless compared with the dreadful consequences resulting from a belief in WITCHCRAFT-which even made its way into our courts of justice ; and it is with horror we read of hundreds of innocent persons entitled, by age and infirmities, to protection and indulgence, immolated, with all the forms of law, at the shrine of universal Ignorance ! Artfol priests, to advance the interests of their religion, or rather their own emolument, pretended to have power to cast out devils from demoniacs and persons bewitched, and for this purpose suborned worthless people to act the part of persons possessed ; and to suffer the evil spirits to be cast out by prayers and sprinkling with holy water. To perform their parts they counterfeited violent fits and convulsions, on signs given them; and, in compliance with the popular notions, vomited up crooked nails, pins, needles, coals, and other rubbish, privately conveyed to them. Fortunately, these combinations were at length discovered and exposed; but it is an astonishing fact, that in New England there were, at one time, upwards of three hundred persons all imprisoned for witchcraft.
Confuted and ridiculed as these opinions have lately been, the seeds of them are still widely diffused, and at different times have attempted to spring up, as in the Cock-lane Ghost, the noises at Stockwell, and the Sampford Ghost. So recently as in the last reign, in the centre of England, at Glen in Leiecestershire, two old women were actually thrown into the river by the populace, to ascertain, by their sinking or swimming, whether they were witches! Have we not even at the present day the pretended miracles of Prince Hohenloe, and do we not daily read of the horrid cruelties perpetrated in Ireland, under the pretence of casting out evil spirits ? How, indeed, can we doubi the wide diffusion of popular superstitions, when it is notorious, that men of first-rate education and intellect have been believers therein! Dr. Johnson was a scrupulous observer of signs, omens, and particular days; Addison was a half-believer, at least, in ghosts; John Wesley saw or heard several apparitions ; and at this very time we have the Poet LAUREATE and Sir Walter Scott endea. vouriug to revive all the ancient phantasmagoria of elves, fairies, witches, giants, and dwarfs,—not forgetting the philosopher's stone, and the sublime mysteries of Jacob Behmen!
GHOSTS. These are supposed to be the spirits of persons deceased ;. who are either commissioned to return for some especial errand, such as the discovery of a murder; to procure restitution of lands, unjustly withheld from an orphan or widow-or, having committed some injustice whilst living, cannot rest till that is redressed. Sometimes their earthly mission is to inform their heir in what secret place, or private drawer in an old trunk, they had hidden the title-deeds of the estate ; or where in troublesome times they had buried their money or plate. Some ghosts of murdered persons, whose bodies have been secretly buried, cannot be at ease till their bones have been grubbed up, and deposited in consecrated ground, with all the rites of Christian burial.
Ghosts are supposed to be mere aërial beings, that can glide through a stone wall, a key-hole, or even the cye of a tailor's needle. They usually appear about midnight, sel. dom before it is dark; though some audacious spirits have appeared even by day-light:but of these there are few instances, and those mostly Ghosts that have been laid in the Red Sea, and whose term of imprisonment had expired; these, like felons returned fruin Botany Bay, are said to return more daring and troublesome than before. Dragging chains is not the fashion of English Ghosts; chains and black vestments being chiefly the habiliments of foreign sprites, seen in the dominions of the Holy Alliance : living or dead English spirits are free! One solitary instance occurs of an English Ghost dressed in black, in the well known ballad of William and Margaret :
And clay-cold was her lily hand,
That held her suble shroud. This, however, is conjectured to be merely a poetical licence, used for the bold contrast the essence of the picturesque-of lily to sable.
If, during the time of an apparition, there is a lighted candle in the room, it burns deeply blue : this is so universally