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Cradle Hymn
ISAAC WATTS Hush, my dear, lie still and slu...

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A Christmas Fairy
JOHN STRANGE WINTER IT was getting very near to Ch...

The Felling Of The Tree
A swift mountain-flood rolling down its channel; a hu...

The Boar's Head Carol
(Sung at Queen's College, Oxford.) The boar'...

Little Wolff's Wooden Shoes
A CHRISTMAS STORY BY FRANCOIS COPPEE; ADAPTED AND TRANS...

Old Christmas Returned
All you that to feasting and mirth are inclined, ...





A Merry Christmas To You






THEODORE LEDYARD CUYLER

My own boyhood was spent in a delightful home on one of the most
beautiful farms in Western New York--an experience that any city-bred
boy might envy. We had no religious festivals except Thanksgiving Day
and Christmas, and the latter was especially welcome, not only on
account of the good fare but its good gifts. Christmas was sacred to
Santa Claus, the patron saint of good boys and girls. We counted the
days until its arrival. If the night before the longed-for festival was
one of eager expectation in all our houses, it was a sad time in all
barn-yards and turkey-coops and chicken-roosts; for the slaughter was
terrible, and the cry of the feathered tribes was like the mourning of
Hadadrimmon. As to our experiences within doors, they are portrayed in
Dr. Clement C. Moore's immortal lines, The Night Before Christmas,
which is probably the most popular poem for children ever penned in
America. As the visits of Santa Claus in the night could only be through
the chimney, we hung our stockings where they would be in full sight.
Three score and ten years ago such modern contrivances as steam pipes,
and those unpoetical holes in the floor called hot-air registers, were
as entirely unknown in our rural regions as gas-burners or telephones.
We had a genuine fire-place in our kitchen, big enough to contain an
enormous back-log, and broad enough for eight or ten people to form a
circle wide before it and enjoy the genial warmth.

The last process before going to bed was to suspend our stockings in the
chimney jambs; and then we dreamed of Santa Claus, or if we awoke in the
night, we listened for the jingling of his sleigh-bells. At the peep of
day we were aroused by the voice of my good grandfather, who planted
himself in the stairway and shouted in a stentorian tone, I wish you
all a Merry Christmas! The contest was as to who should give the
salutation first, and the old gentleman determined to get the start of
us by sounding his greeting to the family before we were out of our
rooms. Then came a race for the chimney corner; all the stockings came
down quicker than they had gone up. What could not be contained in them
was disposed upon the mantelpiece, or elsewhere. I remember that I once
received an autograph letter from Santa Claus, full of good counsels;
and our colored cook told me that she awoke in the night and, peeping
into the kitchen, actually saw the veritable old visitor light a candle
and sit down at the table and write it! I believed it all as implicitly
as I believed the Ten Commandments, or the story of David and Goliath.
Happy days of childish credulity, when fact and fiction were swallowed
alike without a misgiving! During my long life I have seen many a
day-dream and many an air-castle go the way of Santa Claus and the
wonderful Lamp of Aladdin.

In after years, when I became a parent, my beloved wife and I,
determined to make the Christmastide one of the golden days of the
twelve months. In mid-winter, when all outside vegetation was bleak and
bare, the Christmas-tree in our parlor bloomed in many-colored beauty
and bounty. When the tiny candles were all lighted the children and our
domestics gathered round it and one of the youngsters rehearsed some
pretty juvenile effusion; as they that had found great spoil. After
the happy harvesting of the magic tree in my own home, it was my custom
to spend the afternoon or evening in some mission-school and to watch
the sparkling eyes of several hundreds of children while a huge
Christmas-tree shed down its bounties. Fifty years ago, when the
degradation and miseries of the Five-Points were first invaded by
pioneer philanthropy, it was a thrilling sight to behold the denizens of
the slums and their children as they flocked into Mr. Pease's new House
of Industry and the Brewery Mission building. The angelic host over
the hills of Bethlehem did not make a more welcome revelation to them
who had sat in darkness and the shadow of death. In these days the
squalid regions of our great cities are being explored and improved by
various methods of systematic beneficence. Christian Settlements are
established; Bureaus of Charity are formed and Associations for the
relief of the poor are organized. A noble work; but, after all, the most
effective bureau is one that, in a water-proof and a stout pair of
shoes, sallies off on a wintry night to some abode of poverty with not
only supplies for suffering bodies, but kind words of sympathy for
lonesome hearts. A dollar from a warm hand with a warm word is worth two
dollars sent by mail or by a messenger-boy. The secret of power in doing
good is _personal contact_. Our incarnate Elder Brother went in person
to the sick chamber. He anointed with His own hand the eyes of the blind
man and He touched the loathsome leper into health. The portentous chasm
between wealth and poverty must be bridged by a span of personal
kindness over which the footsteps must turn in only one direction. The
personal contact of self sacrificing benevolence with darkness, filth
and misery--that is the only remedy. Heart must touch heart. Benevolence
also cannot be confined to calendars. Those good people will exhibit the
most of the spirit of our Blessed Master who practice Christmas-giving
and cheerful, unselfish and zealous Christmas-living through all the
circling year.





Next: Christmas Bells

Previous: Merry Christmas



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