Our American Holidays - Christmas/Inexhaustibility of the Subject of Christmas
INEXHAUSTIBILITY OF THE SUBJECT OF CHRISTMAS
So many things have been said of late years about Christmas, that it is supposed by some there is no saying more. O they of little faith! What! do they suppose that every thing has been said that can be said about any one Christmas thing?
About beef, for instance?
About mistletoe? (Good Heavens! what an immense number of things remain to be said about mistletoe!)
About Christmas Eve?
About hot cockles?
About shoeing the wild-mare?
About Miss Smith?
About the bell-man?
About the waits?
About the fire?
About the block on it?
About their mothers?
About saluting the apple-trees?
About Julklaps? (Who has exhausted that subject, we should like to know?)
About New-Year's Day?
About king and queen?
About eating too much?
About the doctor?
About all being in the wrong?
About all being in the right?
About faith, hope, and endeavor?
About the greatest plum-pudding for the greatest number?
Esto perpetua,—that is, faith, hope and charity, and endeavor; and plum-pudding enough by and by, all the year round, for everybody that likes it. Why that should not be the case, we cannot see,—seeing that the earth is big, and human kind teachable, and God very good, and inciting us to do it. Meantime, gravity apart, we ask anybody whether any of the above subjects are exhausted; and we inform everybody, that all the above customs still exist in some parts of our beloved country, however unintelligible they may have become in others. But to give a specimen of
Beef, for example. Now, we should like to know who has exhausted the subject of the fine old roast Christmas piece of beef, from its original appearance in the meadows as part of the noble sultan of the herd, glorious old Taurus,—the lord of the sturdy brow and ponderous agility, a sort of thunderbolt of a beast, well chosen by Jove to disguise in, one of Nature's most striking compounds of apparent heaviness and unencumbered activity,—up to its contribution to the noble Christmas-dinner, smoking from the spit, and flanked by the outposts of Bacchus. John Bull (cannibalism apart) hails it like a sort of relation. He makes it part of his flesh and blood; glories in it; was named after it; has it served up, on solemn occasions, with music and a hymn, as it was the other day at the royal city dinner:—
" Oh the roast beef of old England!
And oh the old English roast beef!"
"And oh!" observe, not merely "oh!" again; but "and" with it; as if, though the same piece of beef, it were also another,—another and the same,—cut, and come again; making two of one, in order to express intensity and reduplication of satisfaction:—
"Oh the roast beef of old England!
And oh the old English roast beef!"
We beg to assure the reader, that a whole Seer might be written on this single point of the Christmas-dinner; and "shall we be told" (as orators exclaim), "and this, too, in a British land," that the subject is "exhausted"!
Then plum-pudding! What a word is that! how plump and plump again! How round and repeated and plenipotential! "There are two p's, observe, in plenipotential; and so there are in plum-pudding. We love an exquisite fitness,—a might and wealth of adaptation). Why, the whole round cheek of universal childhood is in the idea of plum-pudding; ay, and the weight of manhood, and the plenitude of the majesty of city dames. Wealth itself is symbolized by the least of its fruity particles. "A plum" is a city fortune,—a million of money. He (the old boy, who has earned it) —
"Puts In his thumb,
videlicet, into his pocket,
And pulls out a plum,
And says. What a good man am I!"
Observe a little boy at a Christmas-dinner, and his grandfather opposite him. What a world of secret similarity there is between them! How hope in one, and retrospection in the other, and appetite in both, meet over the same ground of pudding, and understand it to a nicety! How the senior banters the little boy on his third slice! and how the little boy thinks within himself that he dines that day as well as the senior! How both look hot and red and smiling, and juvenile. How the little boy is conscious of the Christmas-box in his pocket! (of which, indeed, the grandfather jocosely puts him in mind); and how the grandfather is quite as conscious of the plum, or part of a plum, or whatever fraction it may be, in his own! How he incites the little boy to love money and good dinners all his life! and how determined the little boy is to abide by his advice,—with a secret addition in favor of holidays and marbles,—to which there is an analogy, in the senior's mind, on the side of trips to Hastings, and a game at whist! Finally, the old gentleman sees his own face in the pretty smooth one of the child; and if the child is not best pleased at his proclamation of the likeness (in truth, is horrified at it, and thinks it a sort of madness), yet nice observers, who have lived long enough to see the wonderful changes in people's faces from youth to age, probably discern the thing well enough, and feel a movement of pathos at their hearts in considering the world of trouble and emotion that is the causer of the changes. That old man's face was once like that little boy's! That little boy's will be one day like that old man's! What a thought to make us all love and respect one another, if not for our fine qualities, let at least for the trouble and sorrow which we all go through!
Ay, and joy too; for all people have their joys as well as troubles, at one time or another,—most likely both together, or in constant alternation: and the greater part of troubles are not the worst things in the world, but only graver forms of the requisite motion of the universe, or workings towards a better condition of things, the greater or less violent according as we give them violence, or respect them like awful but not ill-meaning gods, and entertain them with a rewarded patience. Grave thoughts, you will say, for Christmas. But no season has a greater right to grave thoughts, in passing; and, for that very reason, no season has a greater right to let them pass, and recur to more light ones.
So a noble and merry season to you, my masters; and may we meet, thick and threefold, many a time and oft, in blithe yet most thoughtful pages! Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the 25th of this month, that the divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day: and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making, and wondrous was the wine-drinking at Galilee.