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The Telltale Tile
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A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Fairy
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The Voyage Of The Wee Red Cap
RUTH SAWYER DURAND It was the night of St. Stephen...

The Christmas Silence
MARGARET DELAND Hushed are the pigeons cooin...

On Good Wishes At Christmas


At Christmas, which is a good holiday for most of us, but especially for
that larger and better half of us, the young, there is, as everybody
knows, a profusion of good things. The final cause of a great many
existences is Christmas Day. How many of that vast flock of geese, which
are now peacefully feeding over the long, cold wolds of Norfolk, or are
driven gabbling and hissing by the gozzard to their pasture--how many of
those very geese were called into being simply for Christmas Day! In the
towns, with close streets and fetid courts, where the flaring gas at the
corner of an alley marks the only bright spot, a gin-palace, there a
goose-club is held; and there, for a short time, is the resting-place,
side by side with a bottle of gin, of one of those wise-looking and
self-concentrated gobblers, whose name men have generally, and, as we
think, unjustly, applied to the silly one amongst themselves.

But it is only the profusion of good things, of cakes, puddings, spices,
oranges, and fruits, from sunny Italy and Spain, from India and from
Asia, from America, North and South, and even from distant Australia; it
is not that amongst us, as long ago with the _Franklin_ in Chaucer, that
at this time--

It snowes in our house
Of meate and drinke;

it is not that we have huge loads of beef chines, ribs, sirloins, legs,
necks, breasts, and shoulders of mutton, fillets of veal, whole hogs,
and pigs in various stages, from the tender suckling to the
stiff-jointed father of a family, whose back hair makes good
clothes-brushes, and whose head is brought in at college feasts; it is
not that the air gives up its choicest fowl, and the waters yield their
best fish: plentiful as these are with us, they are nothing in profusion
to the kindly greeting and good wishes that fly about in the cold
weather, and that circulate from land's end to land's end. The whole
coast of England is surrounded by a general shake hands. The
coast-guard on their wintry walks do not greet each other more surely
than old friends all over England do: one clasps another, and another a
third, till from Dover to London and so on to York, from Yarmouth on the
east to Bristol on the west, from John O'Groat's house at the extreme
north to the Land's End, the very toe-nail of England on the south--a
kindly greeting, we may be sure, will pass. And a cheerful thing it is,
on this day of universal equality, on this day which--

To the cottage and the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down,

to think that we can touch and hold each other with friendly hands all
over our land. We all of us shake hands on Christmas Day. Leigh Hunt had
a quaint fancy that he had, as it were, by lineal descent, shaken hands
with Milton. He would argue thus: he knew a man who had shaken hands
with Dr. Johnson, who had clasped the hand of him who had shaken
Dryden's right hand, who himself had thus greeted Andrew Marvell, who
knew Master Elwood, the Quaker friend of Milton, who knew Milton
himself; and thus, though our Sovereign has her hand kissed, not shaken,
by her subjects, yet doubtless she will clasp the hands of her children,
who, shaking those of others, will let the greeting and the good wishes
descend to the lowest on that ladder of society which we are all trying
to climb.

As for hearty good wishes, spoken in all kinds of voices, from the
deepest bass to the shrillest treble, we are sure that they circulate
throughout the little island, and are borne on the wings of the post all
over the seas. Erasmus, coming to England in Henry VIII's time, was
struck with the deep heartiness of our wishes--good, ay, and bad too;
but he most admired the good ones. Other nations ask in their greetings
how a man carries himself, or how doth he stand with the world, or how
doth he find himself; but the English greet with a pious wish that God
may give one a good morning or a good evening, good day, or god'd'en,
as the old writers have it; and when we part we wish that God may be
with you, though we now clip it into Good b'ye.

Next: A Christmas Song

Previous: The Spirit Of Christmas

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