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Christmas Carol
Listen, lordings, unto me, a tale I will you tell; ...

A Simple Bill Of Fare For A Christmas Dinner


All good recipe-books give bills of fare for different occasions, bills
of fare for grand dinners, bills of fare for little dinners; dinners to
cost so much per head; dinners which can be easily prepared with one
servant, and so on. They give bills of fare for one week; bills of fare
for each day in a month, to avoid too great monotony in diet. There are
bills of fare for dyspeptics; bills of fare for consumptives; bills of
fare for fat people, and bills of fare for thin; and bills of fare for
hospitals, asylums, and prisons, as well as for gentlemen's houses. But
among them all, we never saw the one which we give below. It has never
been printed in any book; but it has been used in families. We are not
drawing on our imagination for its items. We have sat at such dinners;
we have helped prepare such dinners; we believe in such dinners; they
are within everybody's means. In fact, the most marvellous thing about
this bill of fare is that the dinner does not cost a cent. Ho! all ye
that are hungry and thirsty, and would like so cheap a Christmas dinner,
listen to this:


_First Course_--Gladness.

This must be served hot. No two housekeepers make it alike; no fixed
rule can be given for it. It depends, like so many of the best things,
chiefly on memory; but, strangely enough, it depends quite as much on
proper forgetting as on proper remembering. Worries must be forgotten.
Troubles must be forgotten. Yes, even sorrow itself must be denied and
shut out. Perhaps this is not quite possible. Ah! we all have seen
Christmas days on which sorrow would not leave our hearts nor our
houses. But even sorrow can be compelled to look away from its sorrowing
for a festival hour which is so solemnly joyous at Christ's Birthday.
Memory can be filled full of other things to be remembered. No soul is
entirely destitute of blessings, absolutely without comfort. Perhaps we
have but one. Very well; we can think steadily of that one, if we try.
But the probability is that we have more than we can count. No man has
yet numbered the blessings, the mercies, the joys of God. We are all
richer than we think; and if we once set ourselves to reckoning up the
things of which we are glad, we shall be astonished at their number.

Gladness, then, is the first item, the first course on our bill of fare
for a Christmas dinner.

_Entrees._--Love garnished with Smiles.

GENTLENESS, with sweet-wine sauce of Laughter.

GRACIOUS SPEECH, cooked with any fine, savory herbs, such as Frollery,
which is always in season, or Pleasant Reminiscence, which no one need
be without, as it keeps for years, sealed or unsealed.

_Second Course_--HOSPITALITY.

The precise form of this also depends on individual preferences. We are
not undertaking here to give exact recipes, only a bill of fare.

In some houses Hospitality is brought on surrounded with Relatives. This
is very well. In others, it is dished up with Dignitaries of all sorts;
men and women of position and estate for whom the host has special
likings or uses. This gives a fine effect to the eye, but cools quickly,
and is not in the long-run satisfying.

In a third class, best of all, it is served in simple shapes, but with a
great variety of Unfortunate Persons,--such as lonely people from
lodging-houses, poor people of all grades, widows and childless in their
affliction. This is the kind most preferred; in fact, never abandoned by
those who have tried it.

_For Dessert._--MIRTH, in glasses.

GRATITUDE and FAITH beaten together and piled up in snowy shapes. These
will look light if run over night in the moulds of Solid Trust and

A dish of the bonbons Good Cheer and Kindliness with every-day mottoes;
Knots and Reasons in shape of Puzzles and Answers; the whole ornamented
with Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver, of the kind mentioned in the
Book of Proverbs.

This is a short and simple bill of fare. There is not a costly thing in
it; not a thing which cannot be procured without difficulty.

If meat be desired, it can be added. That is another excellence about
our bill of fare. It has nothing in it which makes it incongruous with
the richest or the plainest tables. It is not overcrowded by the
addition of roast goose and plum-pudding; it is not harmed by the
addition of herring and potatoes. Nay, it can give flavor and richness
to broken bits of stale bread served on a doorstep and eaten by beggars.

We might say much more about this bill of fare. We might, perhaps,
confess that it has an element of the supernatural; that its origin is
lost in obscurity; that, although, as we said, it has never been printed
before, it has been known in all ages; that the martyrs feasted upon it;
that generations of the poor, called blessed by Christ, have laid out
banquets by it; that exiles and prisoners have lived on it; and the
despised and forsaken and rejected in all countries have tasted it. It
is also true that when any great king ate well and throve on his dinner,
it was by the same magic food. The young and the free and the glad, and
all rich men in costly houses, even they have not been well fed without

And though we have called it a Bill of Fare for a Christmas Dinner, that
is only that men's eyes may be caught by its name, and that they,
thinking it a specialty for festival, may learn and understand its
secret, and henceforth, laying all their dinners according to its magic
order, may eat unto the Lord.

Next: A Ballade Of Old Loves

Previous: A Christmas Carol

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