Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/Putting up the Christmas


What mirth, what lightness of heart and harmless fun begin, when in every house the ensign of Old Christmas—dark green and vermilion—is set up amid sly jokes and merry laughter. We will lay a harmless wager that hid in that thick bough the misletoe peeps forth in a most convenient position for the due performance of the mystic rite attached to its worship. Why is it that the girls are always found thus feathering Cupid’s darts behind the scenes in this flagrant manner? Ten to one but they will give their handiwork a wide berth in the most coquettish manner the moment that tiresome Charley or impudent Fred prepares to accept their invitation in the best possible spirit; and ten to one that before the dance is over, they will, by pure accident, of course, be passing close beneath its mirth-giving shade. Long may the holly flourish, and long may its bright red berries laugh from its midst, as fair hands and bright eyes weave them into pleasant man-traps.

Meantime the younger folk have been busy with the Christmas Trees. The children of the dark pine forest have of late been pressed into the service of Old Father Christmas. Torn from their bleak hill-sides, and abstracted from the monotonous long-drawn files of the nursery gardens, how they must be astonished to find themselves suddenly placed in the midst of a mob of bright-eyed children, laden to the very tips of their branches with sweets and packets, and burdened with the light of a hundred twinkling tapers.

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But we elder ones also have our Christmas Tree on a larger scale. The great city decorates and lights up and holds out its million hands with presents suitable for the season. It is interesting to watch the slow degrees by which the advent of Old Father Christmas is made known. The grocer, for weeks before, makes preparations. His windows are burdened with hills of currants; a desert of brown sugar spreads away into the interior; there is an attempt at modelling the human form divine, in the shape of a man constructed of a dropsical-looking citron stuck upon two cinnamon legs. But art has penetrated even into the domain of the grocer in the shape of bonbon cases from Paris, in which sweets to the taste are daintily wrapped up in sweets to the eye. The grocer is speedily followed by the bookseller. His window becomes a blaze of colour. By some mysterious process, every book that has failed to attract during the year is furbished up for the delectation of the laughing public at Christmas. It really is astonishing the number of articles which pushing tradesmen believe John Bull can be gulled into purchasing at Christmas time. His pocket is supposed to be like the clown’s at Astley’s, into which every conceivable thing may be poked. One burglarious Christmas, we remember seeing in a shop window, a group of life-preservers flanked with blunderbusses, with a ticket underneath, inscribed “Presents suitable for the season.” It is clear John Bull, when he has had a good dinner at this season, must go out into the streets and buy right and left, for the mere pleasure of bleeding a plethoric purse. As the great day approaches, the butcher’s shop begins to be a centre of attraction. We thought that the theory of turning good beef and mutton into so much suet had been exploded, but a walk about town during Christmas week convinces us that your jolly butcher is not going to give in to common sense quite so speedily.

But we must not pause at this season to pick holes in the “Roast Beef of Old England.” Neither must we inquire too curiously into the quality of “fine old crusty port at 2s. 9d.,” which goes to make merry the hearts of middle-class London.

Teetotalism at this season is moody, and refuses to be comforted. Towards Christmas Day the pictures of “frightful examples” exhibited in the windows grow more exaggerated than ever; the drunkard beats his wife with tenfold violence; and we observe that the anatomical plate of the spirit-drinker’s stomach is move than usually inflamed.

But we have no space for joking, nor inclination for controversy now; we have grounds of sympathy even with the toast-and-water moralist. Even he will help us to hang up the misletoe; and we wish him and all our readers a merry Christmas!