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 the non-exhaustion of any one of their topics.
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
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
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 three-fold, 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
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