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L Holywell Special Sessions.I




THE CHRISTMAS TREE. THE Christmas tree has became a prevailing fashion In England at this season, and is by most persons supposed to be derived from Germany. Such, however, is not the fact. The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long antecedent to the Christian era. The palm tree is known to put forth a shoot every month, and a spray of this tree, with twelve shoots upon it, was used in Egypt, at the time of the winter solstice, as a symbol of the year com- pleted. It is probable, however, that to Germany we are indebted for the introduction of the tree into this country. Egyptian associations of a very early date still mingle with the traditions and customs of the Christmas tree. There are as many pyramids as trees used in Germany in the celebration of Christmas by those whose means do not admit of their purchasing trees and the concomi- tant tapers. These pyramids consist of slight erections of slips of wood, arranged like a pyramidal epergne, covered with groen paper, and decorated with festoons of paper chain-work, which flutter in the wind and constitute a make-believe foliage. This latter, how- ever, is an innovation of modern days. The palm tree spray of Egypt, on reaching Italy, became a branch of any other tree, the tip of the fir (spruce) being found most suitable from its pyramidal or conical shape, and was decorated with burning tapers lighted in honour of Saturn, whose saturnalia was celebrated from the 17th to the 21st December, the period of the winter solstice. The lighted tapers, the saturnalia, or presents given, and the entertainment of the domestics on a footing of equality, date from this age. After the saturnalia came the days called sigillaria, when presents were made of impressions stamped on wax, which still form part of the furniture of a Christmas tree. To- the sigillaria succeeded one day called the juvenalia, on which every person, even adults, indulged in childish sports, and hence the romping close of our Christmas festivities. Almost all the nations of the ancient world had t'.eir peculiar feast of mid-winter, but the Juel-fese of the northern mythology is that which seems to have left the most discernible traces in our country. The circling year was represented as a wheel, the word itself being derived from jtzel; closing only to com- mence again. The yule-log was headed on the fire, and the boar, an animal obnoxious to the God, of the Sun, was roasted whole in the open air. The nvst pleasing part connected wi: h this observance of the mid-winter festival was the custom of concealing the presents in as many wrappers as possible, and throwing them in at the windows, t e practice being emblemati- cal of the hidden blessings in store for the coming yea; It was not till several cont-uries after tho birth of our Saviour that the Church appointed the nativity to be a high day and a holiday and. not having specific in- formation as to the exact period of our "Lord's birth, December 25 was fixed upon, as being more likdy than any other to be the correct day. With the Germans the greatest festival is our Christmas Eve, which has the more propriety, as whatever d"nht attaches to the date of His birth, it is certain our Lord was born in the night-time. As Christmas Eve always falls on the evening of Adam and Eve's day, an orthodox Christmas tree will have the figures of our first parents at its foot, and the serpent twining itself round the Et-m. By a-bold stretch of theological fancy, the tree, with its branches and tapers, is with the ahove-inertioued accessories understood to typify the genealogy of our Lord, closing in the most luminous apex, the sun of light and life-" the seed of the woman should crush the serpent's head." The Romans had already affix ,] on the summit o j their trees a representation of a radiant sun in honour of Phoebus Apollo, to whom the three last days of December were dedicated. In con- nection with this god, sheep were sometimes exhibited pasturing under the tree, or Apollo himself took charge of the herd, or taught the shepherd the use of the pipe. The sigillaria of the Romans were impressed with the images of saints and holy persons; the lighted tapers, also, borrowed from the Saturnalia, were re- tained here, as elsewhere, as portions of the religious ceremony. The giving of presents, another portion of the saturnalia, was understood to be expressive of Christian brotherly love; while the apples, nuts, and gingerbread, equally unmistakeabie remnants of the northern heathen mythology, have been retained in the service of the Christmas festival as accessories that sufficiently recommend themselves without typifying anything holy. A volume might be filled-anl pleasant reading it would be-of the customs of different ages and nations, and how they raised these decorations. It was a beautiful, old, almost holy, superstition that caused our simple forefathers to believe good spirits entered the churches at Christmas, and concealed themselves among the evergreens with which they had decorated it. Mankind was never made worse through having the productions of nature before their eyes, whether in doors or out, at church or at home. Turning from the heathen, it might begin at the time Nehemiah ordered "The courts of the house of God" to be decorated with "branches of thick trees," carried on to the strewing of the streets of Jerusalem at our Saviour's entry, and so be brought down in many a picturesque record to our own time. Let us not do away with our Christmas decorations, for we have but few things left to bring back the memory of the green old poetical days when our forefathers found happiness under arbours of their own erecting, and watched their children dance beneath the flowery garlands of their own making; when their pleasures were harmless, and their hearts pure, and there was less empty and showy pride than there is at the present time. Who that has ever sat alone by a deserted hearth at Christmas, in a room where old festivals have been held, has not reflected on the changes that have their taken place. What scenes memory brings before us as we sit and watch the yule-log blaze, and send its bright sparks up the dark- mouthed chimney. All that was dear once congre- gated there, and now where are they gone ? The ivy on the vvails of the old house rustles in the Decem- ber wind like the house itself, it is so old that all remembrance of when the one was first built and the other first planted has passed away. Many a time have its leaves been gathered to decorate those dark wainscoted rooms at Christmas, and the old country church, which is well worth seeing, for it is an old custom, without any harm in it, and one we are sure that is unlikely to awaken any but good thoughts, and be linked only to solemn associations. The morning sun shines on it, and night falls darker where it grows than it does in other places yet it never seems to change, though many generations have passed away since it first climbed those old walls, and eawreathed thos" twisted chimneys, and peeped in at those diamond- shaped latices, where beauty slept and manly vigour reposed, and where childhood uttered its plaintive cries, and deaf old age had to be shouted at. And from those windows we can see the grey old church, with its green church-yard, in which centuries of generations have worshipped, and where peace dwells with humble pove'ty in the lowliest cottages by which they are surrounded, seeming as if guarded by their dead. It is Only the actions of the just That smell sweet and blossom in the dust." We have sat and looked on such a scene, then turned to the pictures of the dead still hanging on the walls, who in the years that are gone kept many a merry Christmas. These are thy works, thou source of good, HOlv d mly seen, how family understood." âScottish Farmer.



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