Date Of Christ's Birth Discussed

The day on which Jesus Christ died is plainly distinguishable, but the

day of His birth is open to very much question, and, literally, is

only conjectural; so that the 25th December must be taken purely as

the day on which His birth is celebrated, and not as His absolute

natal day. In this matter we can only follow the traditions of the

Church, and tradition alone has little value.

In the second and early third centuries of our aera, we only know that

the festivals, other than Sundays and days set apart for the

remembrance of particular martyrs, were the Passover, Pentecost, and

the Epiphany, the baptism or manifestation of our Lord, when came a

voice from Heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well

pleased. This seems always to have been fixed for the 6th of January,

and with it was incorporated the commemoration of His birth.

Titus Flavius Clemens, generally known as Clemens of Alexandria, lived

exactly at this time, and was a contemporary of Origen. He speaks

plainly on the subject, and shows the uncertainty, even at that early

epoch of Christianity, of fixing the date:[1] There are those who,

with an over-busy curiosity, attempt to fix not only the year, but the

date of our Saviour's birth, who, they say, was born in the

twenty-eighth year of Augustus, on the 25th of the month Pachon,

i.e. the 20th of May. And in another place he says: Some say that

He was born on the 24th or 25th of the month Pharmuthi, which would

be the 19th or 20th of April.

But, perhaps, the best source of information is from the Memoires

pour servir a l'histoire ecclesiastique des six premiers Siecles, by

Louis Sebastian le Nain de Tillemont, written at the very commencement

of the eighteenth century,[2] and I have no hesitation in appending a

portion of his fourth note, which treats Upon the day and year of

the birth of Jesus Christ.

It is thought that Jesus Christ was born in the night, because it was

night when the angel declared His birth to the shepherds: in which S.

Augustin says that He literally fulfilled David's words, Ante

luciferum genuite.

The tradition of the Church, says this father, is that it was upon

the 25th of December. Casaubon acknowledges that we should not

immediately reject it upon the pretence that it is too cold a season

for cattle to be at pasture, there being a great deal of difference

between these countries and Judaea; and he assures us that, even in

England, they leave the cows in the field all the year round.

S. Chrysostom alleges several reasons to prove that Jesus Christ was

really born upon the 25th of December; but they are weak enough,

except that which he assures of, that it has always been the belief of

the Western Churches. S. Epiphanius, who will have the day to have

been the 6th of January, places it but at twelve days' distance. S.

Clement of Alexandria says that, in his time, some fixed the birth of

Jesus Christ upon the 19th or 20th April; others, on the 20th of May.

He speaks of it as not seeing anything certain in it.

It is cited from one John of Nice, that it was only under Pope Julius

that the Festival of the Nativity was fixed at Rome upon the 25th of

December. Father Combesisius, who has published the epistle of this

author, confesses that he is very modern: to which we may add that he

is full of idle stories, and entirely ignorant of the history and

discipline of antiquity. So that it is better to rest upon the

testimony of S. Chrysostom, who asserts that, for a long time before,

and by very ancient tradition, it was celebrated upon the 25th of

December in the West, that is, in all the countries which reach from

Thrace to Cadiz, and to the farthest parts of Spain. He names Rome

particularly; and thinks that it might be found there that this was

the true day of our Saviour's birth, by consulting the registers of

the description of Judaea made at that time, supposing them still to be

preserved there. We find this festival placed upon the 25th of

December in the ancient Roman Calendar, which was probably made in the

year 354....

We find by S. Basil's homily upon the birth of our Lord that a

festival in commemoration of it was observed in Cappadocia, provided

that this homily is all his; but I am not of opinion that it appears

from thence either that this was done in January rather than December

or any other month in the year, or that this festival was joined with

that of the Baptism. On the contrary, the Churches of Cappadocia seem

to have distinguished the Feast of the Nativity from that of the

Epiphany, for S. Gregory Nazianzen says, that after he had been

ordained priest, in the year 361, upon the festival of one mystery, he

retired immediately after into Pontus, on that of another mystery, and

returned from Pontus upon that of a third. Now we find that he

returned at Easter, so that there is all imaginable reason to believe

that he was ordained at Christmas, and retired upon the Epiphany. S.

Basil died, in all probability, upon the 1st of January in the year

379, and S. Gregory Nyssen says that his festival followed close upon

those of Christmas, S. Stephen, S. Peter, S. James, and S. John. We

read in an oration ascribed to S. Amphilochius, that he died on the

day of the Circumcision, between the Nativity of Jesus Christ and His

Baptism. S. Gregory Nyssen says that the Feast of Lights, and of the

Baptism of Jesus Christ, was celebrated some days after that of His

Nativity. The other S. Gregory takes notice of several mysteries which

were commemorated at Nazianzium with the Nativity, the Magi, etc., but

he says nothing, in that place, of the Baptism. And yet, if the

festival of Christmas was observed in Cappadocia upon the 25th of

December, we must say that S. Chrysostom was ignorant of it, since he

ascribes this practice only to Thrace and the more Western


In the year 377, or soon after, some persons who came from Rome,

introduced into Syria the practice of celebrating our Lord's Nativity

in the month of December, upon the same day as was done in the West;

and this festival was so well received in that country that in less

than ten years it was entirely established at Antioch, and was

observed there by all the people with great solemnity, though some

complained of it as an innovation. S. Chrysostom, who informs us of

all this, speaks of it in such a manner as to make Father Thomassin

say, not that the birth of Jesus Christ had till then been kept upon a

wrong day, but that absolutely it had not been celebrated there at


S. Chrysostom seems to say, that this festival was received at the

same time by the neighbouring provinces to Antioch; but this must not

be extended as far as to Egypt, as we learn from a passage in Cassian.

This author seems to speak only of the time when he was in Scetae

(about 399), but also of that when he wrote his tenth conference

(about the year 420 or 425). But it appears that, in the year 432,

Egypt had likewise embraced the practice of Rome: for Paul of Emesa,

in the discourse which he made then at Alexandria upon the 29th of

Coiac, which is the 25th of December, says it was the day on which

Jesus Christ was born. S. Isidore of Pelusium, in Egypt, mentions the

Theophany and the Nativity of our Saviour, according to the flesh, as

two different festivals. We were surprised to read in an oration of

Basil of Seleucia, upon S. Stephen, that Juvenal of Jerusalem, who

might be made bishop about the year 420, was the first who celebrated

there our Saviour's Nativity.

The Armenian Church still keeps up the eastern 6th of January as

Christmas day--and, as the old style of the calendar is retained, it

follows that they celebrate the Nativity twenty-four days after we do:

and modern writers make the matter more mixed--for Wiesseler thinks

that the date of the Nativity was 10th January, whilst Mr. Greswell

says it occurred on the 9th April B.C. 4.

It is not everybody that knows that our system of chronology is four

years wrong--i.e. that Jesus Christ must have been born four years

before Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. It happened in this way.

Dionysius Exiguus, in 533, first introduced the system of writing the

words Anno Domini, to point out the number of years which had

elapsed since the Incarnation of our Lord; in other words he

introduced our present chronology. He said the year 1 was the same as

the year A.U.C. (from the building of Rome) 754; and this statement he

based on the fact that our Saviour was born in the twenty-eighth year

of the reign of Augustus; and he reckoned from A.U.C. 727, when the

emperor first took the name of Augustus. The early Christians,

however, dated from the battle of Actium, which was A.U.C. 723, thus

making the Nativity 750. Now we believe that that event took place

during Herod's reign, and we know that Herod died between the 13th

March and 29th March, on which day Passover commenced, in A.U.C. 750,

so that it stands to reason that our chronology is wrong.

Some think that the date of 25th December, which certainly began in

the Roman Church, was fixed upon to avoid the multiplication of

festivals about the vernal equinox, and to appropriate to a Christian

use the existing festival of the winter solstice--the returning sun

being made symbolical of the visit of Christ to our earth; and to

withdraw Christian converts from those pagan observances with which

the closing year was crowded, whilst the licence of the Saturnalia

was turned into the merriment of Christmas.

This festival of the Saturnalia (of which the most complete account is

given by Macrobius in his Conviviorum Saturnaliorum) dated from the

remotest settlement of Latium, whose people reverenced Saturnus as the

author of husbandry and the arts of life. At this festival the utmost

freedom of social intercourse was permitted to all classes; even

slaves were allowed to come to the tables of their masters clothed in

their apparel, and were waited on by those whom they were accustomed

to serve. Feasting, gaming, and revelry were the occupations of all

classes, without discrimination of age, or sex, or rank. Processions

crowded the streets, boisterous with mirth: these illuminated the

night with lighted tapers of wax, which were also used as gifts

between friends in the humbler walks of life. The season was one for

the exchange of gifts of friendship, and especially of gifts to

children. It began on the 17th December, and extended virtually, to

the commencement of the New Year.

Prynne[3] speaks thus of Christmas: If we compare our Bacchanalian

Christmasses and New Year's Tides with these Saturnalia and Feasts of

Janus, we shall finde such near affinytie betweene them both in regard

of time (they being both in the end of December and on the first of

January), and in their manner of solemnizing (both of them being spent

in revelling, epicurisme, wantonesse, idlenesse, dancing, drinking,

stage playes, and such other Christmas disorders now in use with

Christians), were derived from these Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalian

Festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to

abominate them.

The Anglo-Saxons and early English knew not the words either of

Christmas or Christ-tide. To them it was the season of Yule. Bede (de

temporum ratione, c. 13), regards it as a term for the winter

solstice. Menses Giuli a conversione solis in auctum dici, quia unus

eorum praecedit, alius subsequitur, nomina acceperunt: alluding to the

Anglo-Saxon Calendar, which designated the months of December and

January as aeerre-geola and aeftera-geola, the former and the latter

Yule. Both Skeat and Wedgwood derive it from the old Norse jol,

which means feasting and revelry. Mr. J.F. Hodgetts, in an article

entitled Paganism in Modern Christianity (Antiquary, December

1882, p. 257), says:--

The ancient name (Yule) for Christmas is still used throughout all

Scandinavia. The Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians wish each other a 'glad

Yule,' as we say 'A merry Christmas to you.' This alone would serve to

draw our attention to Scandinavia, even if no other reason existed for

searching there for the origin of our great Christian Feast. The grand

storehouses of Pagan lore, as far as the Northern nations of Teutonic

race are concerned, are the two Eddas, and if we refer to the part, or

chapter, of Snorri Sturlson's Edda, known as Gylfa Ginning, we shall

find the twelfth name of Odin, the Father of the Gods, or Allfather,

given as Ialg or Ialkr (pronounced yolk or yulg). The

Christmas tree, introduced into Russia by the Scandinavians, is

called elka (pronounced yolka), and in the times just preceding,

and just after, the conquest of Britain by the English, this high

feast of Odin was held in mid-winter, under the name of Ialka tid,

or Yule-tide. It was celebrated at this season, because the Vikings,

being then unable to go to sea, could assemble in their great halls

and temples and drink to the gods they served so well. Another reason

was, that it fell towards the end of the twelve mystic months that

made up the mythical, as well as the cosmical, cycle of the year, and

was therefore appropriately designated by the last of the names by

which Odin is called in the Edda.

There are different opinions as to the duration of Christ-tide. The

Roman Church holds that Christmas properly begins at Lauds on

Christmas Eve, when the Divine Office begins to be solemnised as a

Double, and refers directly to the Nativity of our Lord. It terminates

on the 13th of January, the Octave day of the Epiphany. The evergreens

and decorations remain in churches and houses until the 2nd of

February, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But I think that if we in England are bound by ecclesiastical law as

to the keeping of Christ-tide, it should, at least, be an English

use--such as was observed before the domination of Rome in England.

And, previous to the Natale, or Festival of the Nativity, the early

Church ordained a preparatory period of nine days, called a

Novena. These take the commencement of Christ-tide back to the 16th

December, on which day the Sarum use ordained the Anthem, which

commences, O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, and at the

present time this day is marked in the Calendar of the English Church

Service Book as O Sapientia. That this was commonly considered the

commencement of Christ-tide is shown by the following anecdote of the

learned Dr. Parr:--A lady asked him when Christmas commenced, so that

she might know when to begin to eat mince pies. Please to say

Christmas pie, madam, replied the Doctor. Mince pie is

Presbyterian. Well, Christmas pie--when may we begin to eat them?

Look in your Prayer-book Calendar for December and there you will

find 'O Sapientia.' Then Christmas pie--not before.

The Festival was considered of such high importance by the

Anglo-Saxons that the ordinary Octave was not good enough; it must be

kept up for twelve days. And Collier (Eccl. Hist., 1840, vol. i.

p. 285) says that a law passed in the days of King Alfred, by virtue

of which the twelve days after the Nativity of our Saviour are made

festivals. This brings us to the feast of the Epiphany, 6th January,

or Twelfth Day, when Christmas ends--for the Epiphany has its own

Octave to follow, and I think the general consensus of opinion is in

favour of this ending.

A Righte Merrie Christmasse Historic Christ-tides in 790, 878, and 1065

The earliest historic Christmas in England was 790, when the Welsh

suddenly attacked the soldiers of Offa, King of Mercia, who were

celebrating Christ-tide, and slew many of them; and in 878, when

Alfred was doing likewise at Chippenham, that Guthrum and his Danes

fell upon him, destroyed his forces, and sent him a fugitive. In 1065,

at this season, Westminster Abbey was consecrated, but King Edward was

not there, being too ill. Next year, in this same Church of St. Peter,

was William I. crowned on Christmas day by Aldred, archbishop of York;

for he would not receive the crown at the hands of Stigand, archbishop

of Canterbury, because he was hated, and furthermore judged to be a

verie lewd person, and a naughtie liver. In 1085 he kept his

Christ-tide at Gloucester, where he knighted his son Henry.

William II. followed the example of his father, and kept the festival

in state; as did Henry I. at Westminster, Windsor, and elsewhere. But

that of 1127 at Windsor was somewhat marred by a quarrel between two

prelates. It seems that Thurston, archbishop of York (in prejudice of

the right of William, archbishop of Canterbury), would have set the

crown on the king's head as he was going to hear Mass, but was pushed

back with some violence by the followers of the other archbishop, and

his chaplain, who was bearing the archiepiscopal crozier, was

ignominiously and contemptuously thrust out of doors, cross and all.

The strife did not end there, for both the prelates, together with the

bishop of Lincoln, went to Rome to lay their case before the Pope for

his decision.

Stephen, for a short time, kept Christ-tide royally; but the internal

dissensions of his kingdom prevented him from continuing celebrating

the festival in state. Henry II. kept his first Christ-tide at

Bermondsey, where, to conciliate his subjects, he solemnly promised to

expel all foreigners from England, whereupon some tarried not, but

went incontinently. A curious event happened at Christmas 1158, when

the king, then at Worcester, took the crown from his head and

deposited it on the altar, never wearing it afterwards. In 1171 he

spent the feast at Dublin, where, there being no place large enough,

he built a temporary hall for the accommodation of his suite and

guests, to which latter he taught the delights of civilisation in good

cookery, masquings, and tournaments. The most famous Christ-tide that

we hear of in the reign of Richard I. is that in 1190, when the two

Kings of England and France held their Christmasse this yeare at

Messina, and still the King of England used great liberalitie in

bestowing his treasure freelie amongst knights and other men of warre,

so that it was thought he spent more in a moneth than anie of his

predecessours ever spent in a whole yeare.

John kept Christ-tide in 1200 at Guildford, and there gave to his

servants manie faire liveries and suits of apparell. The archbishop of

Canturburie did also the like at Canturburie, seeming in deed to

strive with the king, which of them should passe the other in such

sumptuous appareling of their men: whereat the king (and not without

good cause) was greatlie mooved to indignation against him, although,

for a time, he coloured the same. John took a speedy and very curious

revenge. From thence he returned and came to Canturburie, where he

held his Easter, which fell that yeare on the day of the Annunciation

of our Ladie, at which feast he sat crowned, together with his wife,

queen Isabell, the archbishop of Canturburie bearing the charges of

them and their trains while they remained there. Next year he held

the feast at Argenton in Normandy.

Henry III. celebrated the Nativity right royally in 1253 at York,

whither came Alexander the young King of Scots, and was there made

knight by the King of England; and, on Saint Stephan's day, he married

the ladie Margaret, daughter to the King of England, according to the

assurance before time concluded. There was a great assemblie of noble

personages at that feast. The Queene dowager of Scotland, mother to

King Alexander, a Frenchwoman of the house of Coucie, had passed the

sea, and was present there with a faire companie of lords and

gentlemen. The number of knights that were come thither on the King of

England's part were reckoned to be at the point of one thousand. The

King of Scots had with him three score knights, and a great sort of

other gentlemen comparable to knights. The King of Scots did homage to

the King of England, at that time, for the realme of Scotland, and all

things were done with great love and favour, although, at the

beginning, some strife was kindled about taking up of lodgings. This

assemblie of the princes cost the archbishop verie deerelie in

feasting and banketting them and their traines. At one dinner it was

reported he spent at the first course three score fat oxen.

Edward I. had, at two separate times, as Christmas guests Llewellyn of

Wales and Baliol of Scotland. Edward II. kept one feast of the

Nativity at York in 1311, revelling with Piers Gaveston and his

companions; but that of 1326 was spent in prison at Kenilworth, whilst

his wife and son enjoyed themselves at Wallingford. Strange and sad

guests, too, must the captive King of France and David of Scotland

have been at Edward III.'s Christ-tide feast in 1358 at Westminster.

Richard II. came to the throne 21st June 1377, a boy of eleven years,

and I think Stow has made a mistake in a year in the following

account, because at the date he gives he would have been king instead

of prince.

One other show, in the year 1377, made by the citizens for the

disport of the young prince Richard, son to the Black Prince, in the

feast of Christmas, in this manner:--On the Sunday before Candlemas,

in the night, one hundred and thirty citizens, disguised and well

horsed, in a mummery, with sound of trumpets, sackbuts, cornets,

shalmes, and other minstrels, and innumerable torch lights of wax,

rode from Newgate through Cheape, over the bridge, through

Southwarke, and so to Kennington beside Lambheth, where the young

prince remained with his mother and the Duke of Lancaster, his uncle,

the Earls of Cambridge, Hertford, Warwicke, and Suffolke, with divers

other lords. In the first rank did ride forty-eight in the likeness

and habit of Esquires, two and two together, clothed in red coats and

gowns of say or sandal, with comely visors on their faces; after them

came forty-eight Knights, in the same livery of colour and stuff; then

followed one richly arrayed like an Emperor; and, after him some

distance, one stately attired like a Pope, whom followed twenty-four

Cardinals; and, after them, eight or ten with black visors, not

amiable, as if they had been legates from some foreign princes. These

maskers, after they had entered Kennington, alighted from their

horses, and entered the hall on foot; which done, the prince, his

mother, and the lords, came out of the chamber into the hall, whom the

said mummers did salute, showing by a pair of dice upon the table

their desire to play with the prince, which they so handled, that the

prince did always win when he cast them. Then the mummers set to the

prince three jewels, one after the other, which were a bowl of gold, a

cup of gold, and a ring of gold, which the prince won at three casts.

Then they set to the prince's mother, the duke, the earls, and other

lords, to every one a ring of gold, which they did also win. After

which they were feasted, and the music sounded, the prince and lords

danced on the one part with the mummers, which did also dance; which

jollity being ended, they were again made to drink, and then departed

in order as they came.

When he came to the throne as Richard II. he had very enlarged ideas

on expenditure, and amongst others on Christmas feasts. He held one at

Lichfield in 1398, where the Pope's Nuncio and several foreign

noblemen were present, and he was obliged to enlarge the episcopal

palace in order to accommodate his guests. Stow tells us: This yeere

King Richarde kept his Christmas at Liechfield, where he spent in the

Christmas time 200 tunns of wine, and 2000 oxen with their

appurtenances. But then he is said to have had 2000 cooks, and

cookery was then elevated into a science: so much so, that the

earliest cookery book that has come down to us is The Forme of

Cury, which was compiled of the chef Mairt Cok of Kyng Richard the

Secunde, Kyng of .nglond[4] aftir the Conquest. Twenty-eight oxen,

three hundred sheep, an incredible number of fowls, and all kinds of

game were slaughtered every morning for the use of his household. It

seems incredible, but see what old John Hardyng, the metrical

chronicler, says:--

Truly I herd Robert Ireleffe saye,

Clerke of the grene cloth, y^{t} to the household,

Came euery daye for moost partie alwaye,

Ten thousand folke by his messis tould,

That folowed the hous aye as thei would,

And in the kechin three hundred seruitours,

And in eche office many occupiours;

And ladies faire with their gentilwomen,

Chamberers also and launderers,

Three hundred of them were occupied then.

Of the Christ-tides of Henry IV. there are no events recorded, except

that Stow states that in the 2nd of his reign, he then keeping his

Christmas at Eltham, twelve aldermen and their sons rode in a mumming,

and had great thanks, but Henry V. had at least one sweet Christmas

day. It was in the year 1418, when he was besieging Rouen, and

Holinshed thus describes the sufferings of the garrison. If I should

rehearse (according to the report of diverse writers) how deerelie

dogs, rats, mise, and cats were sold within the towne, and how

greedilie they were by the poore people eaten and devoured, and how

the people dailie died for fault of food, and young infants laie

sucking in the streets on their mother's breasts, lieng dead, starved

for hunger; the reader might lament their extreme miseries. A great

number of poore sillie creatures were put out at the gates, which were

by the Englishmen that kept the trenches, beaten and driven backe

againe to the same gates, which they found closed and shut against

them. And so they laie betweene the wals of the citie and the trenches

of the enimies, still crieing for helpe and releefe, for lacke whereof

great numbers of them dailie died.

Howbeit, King Henrie, moved with pitie, upon Christmasse daie, in

the honor of Christes Nativitie, refreshed all the poore people with

vittels, to their great comfort and his high praise.

There are no notable Christ-tides until we come to the reign of Henry

VIII. In the second year of his reign he kept Christmas quietly at

Richmond, the queen being near her confinement, which event taking

place on the first of January, she was sufficiently recovered to look

at the festivities on Twelfth day. Against the twelfe daie, or the

daie of the Epiphanie, at night, before the banket in the hall at

Richmond, was a pageant devised like a mounteine, and set with stones;

on the top of which mounteine was a tree of gold, the branches and

boughes frised with gold, spreading on everie side over the mounteine,

with roses and pomegranates, the which mounteine was, with vices,

brought up towards the king, and out of the same came a ladie

apparelled in cloth of gold, and the children of honour called the

henchmen, which were freshlie disguised, and danced a morice before

the king; and, that done, re-entered the mounteine, which was then

drawen backe, and then was the wassail or banket brought in, and so

brake up Christmasse.

However the queen was better next year, and In this yeare the king

kept his Christmasse at Greenewich, where was such abundance of viands

served to all comers of anie honest behaviour, as hath beene few times

seene. And against New Yeeres night was made in the hall a castell,

gates, towers, and dungeon, garnished with artillerie and weapon,

after the most warlike fashion: and on the front of the castell was

written Le forteresse dangereux, and, within the castell were six

ladies cloathed in russet sattin, laid all over with leaves of gold,

and everie one knit with laces of blew silke and gold. On their heads,

coifs and caps all of gold. After this castell had beene caried about

the hall, and the queene had beheld it, in came the king with five

other, apparelled in coats, the one half of russet sattin, the other

halfe of rich cloth of gold; on their heads caps of russet sattin

embrodered with works of fine gold bullion.

These six assaulted the castell. The ladies seeing them so lustie and

couragious, were content to solace with them, and upon further

communication to yeeld the castell, and so they came downe and dansed

a long space. And after, the ladies led the knights into the castell,

and then the castell suddenlie vanished out of their sights. On the

daie of the Epiphanie at night, the king, with eleven other, were

disguised, after the manner of Italie; called a maske, a thing not

seene before, in England; they were apparelled in garments long and

broad, wrought all with gold, with visors and caps of gold. And, after

the banket done, these maskers came in, with six gentlemen disguised

in silke, bearing staffe torches, and desired the ladies to danse:

some were content, and some refused. And, after they had dansed, and

communed togither, as the fashion of the maske is, they tooke their

leave and departed, and so did the queene and all the ladies.

In 1513, The king kept a solemne Christmasse at Greenwich, with

danses and mummeries in most princelie manner. And on the Twelfe daie

at night came into the hall a mount, called the rich mount. The

mount was set full of rich flowers of silke, and especiallie full of

broome slips full of cods, the branches were greene sattin, and the

flowers flat gold of damaske, which signified Plantagenet. On the top

stood a goodlie beacon giving light; round about the beacon sat the

king and five others, all in cotes and caps of right crimsin velvet,

embrodered with flat gold of damaske, their cotes set full of spangles

of gold. And foure woodhouses (? wooden horses) drew the mount till

it came before the queene, and then the king and his companie

descended and dansed. Then, suddenlie, the mount opened, and out came

six ladies in crimsin sattin and plunket, embrodered with gold and

pearle, with French hoods on their heads, and they dansed alone. Then

the lords of the mount tooke the ladies and dansed together; and the

ladies re-entered, and the mount closed, and so was conveied out of

the hall. Then the king shifted him, and came to the queene, and sat

at the banket, which was verie sumptuous.

1514, This Christmasse, on New Yeares night, the king, the Duke of

Suffolke, and two other were in mantels of cloath of silver, lined

with blew velvet; the silver was pounced in letters, that the velvet

might be seene through; the mantels had great capes like to the

Portingall slops, and all their hosen, dublets, and coats were of the

same fashion cut, and of the same stuffe. With them were foure ladies

in gowns, after the fashion of Savoie, of blew velvet, lined with

cloath of gold, the velvet all cut, and mantels like tipets knit

togither all of silver, and on their heads bonets of burned gold: the

foure torch-bearers were in sattin white and blew. This strange

apparell pleased much everie person, and in especiall the queene. And

thus these foure lords and foure ladies came into the queenes chamber

with great light of torches, and dansed a great season, and then put

off their visors, and were all well knowne, and then the queene

hartily thanked the king's grace for her goodlie pastime and desport.

Likewise on the Twelve night, the king and the queene came into the

hall at Greenewich, and suddenlie entered a tent of cloath of gold; and

before the tent stood foure men of armes, armed at all points, with

swords in their hands; and, suddenlie, with noise of trumpets entered

foure other persons all armed, and ran to the other foure, and there

was a great and fierce fight. And, suddenlie, out of a place like a

wood, eight wild men, all apparelled in greene mosse, made with sleved

silke, with ouglie weapons, and terrible visages, and there fought

with the knights eight to eight: and, after long fighting, the armed

knights drove the wild men out of their places, and followed the chase

out of the hall, and when they were departed, the tent opened, and

there came out six lords and six ladies richlie apparelled, and dansed

a great time. When they had dansed their pleasure, they entered the

tent againe, which was conveied out of the hall: then the king and

queene were served with a right sumptuous banket.

In 1515, The king kept a solemne Christmasse at his manor of Eltham;

and on the Twelfe night, in the hall was made a goodlie castell,

wounderously set out: and in it certeine ladies and knights; and when

the king and queene were set, in came other knights and assailed the

castell, where manie a good stripe was given; and at the last the

assailants were beaten awaie. And then issued out knights and ladies

out of the castell, which ladies were rich and strangelie disguised;

for all their apparell was in braids of gold, fret with moving

spangles of silver and gilt, set on crimsin sattin, loose and not

fastned; the men's apparell of the same sute made like Julis of

Hungarie, and the ladies heads and bodies were after the fashion of

Amsterdam. And when the dansing was done, the banket was served in of

five hundred dishes, with great plentie to everie bodie.

In 1517, the king kept his Christmasse at his manor of Greenwich, and

on the Twelfe night, according to the old custome, he and the queene

came into the hall; and when they were set, and the queene of Scots

also, there entered into the hall a garden artificiall, called the

garden of Esperance. This garden was towred at everie corner, and

railed with railes gilt; all the banks were set with flowers

artificiall of silke and gold, the leaves cut of green sattin, so that

they seemed verie flowers. In the midst of this garden was a piller of

antique worke, all gold set with pearles and stones, and on the top of

the piller, which was six square, was a lover, or an arch embowed,

crowned with gold; within which stood a bush of roses red and white,

all of silk and gold, and a bush of pomegranats of the like stuffe. In

this garden walked six knights, and six ladies richlie apparelled, and

then they descended and dansed manie goodlie danses, and so ascended

out of the hall, and then the king was served with a great banket.

In 1518 was the fearful plague of the sweating sickness, and the

chronicler says this maladie was so cruell that it killed some within

three houres, some merrie at dinner, and dead at dinner. It even

invaded the sanctity of the Court, and the king reduced his

entourage, and kept no Christmas that year.

In 1520, the king kept his Christmas at Greenwich with much

noblenesse and open Court. On Twelfe daie his grace and the earle of

Devonshire, with foure aids, answered at the tournie all commers,

which were sixteene persons. Noble and rich was their apparell, but in

feats of armes the king excelled the rest.

The next one recorded is that of 1524, when before the feast of

Christmasse, the lord Leonard Graie, and the lord John Graie, brethren

to the Marquesse Dorset, Sir George Cobham, sonne to the lord Cobham,

William Carie, Sir John Dudleie, Thomas Wiat, Francis Pointz, Francis

Sidneie, Sir Anthonie Browne, Sir Edward Seimor, Oliver Manners,

Percivall Hart, Sebastian Nudigate, and Thomas Calen, esquiers of the

king's houshold, enterprised a challenge of feats of armes against the

feast of Christmas, which was proclaimed by Windsore the herald, and

performed at the time appointed after the best manners, both at tilt,

tourneie, barriers, and assault of a castell erected for that purpose

in the tilt-yard at Greenewich, where the king held a roiall

Christmasse that yeare, with great mirth and princelie pastime.

Of the next Christ-tide we are told, In this winter there was great

death in London, so that the terme was adjourned: and the king kept

his Christmasse at Eltham, with a small number, and therefore it was

called the Still Christmasse.

In 1526, the king kept a solemne Christmasse at Greenewich with

revelles, maskes, disguisings and bankets; and the thirtith daie of

December, was an enterprise of iusts made at the tilt by six

gentlemen, against all commers, which valiantlie furnished the same,

both with speare and sword; and like iustes were kept the third daie

of Januarie, where were three hundred speares broken. That same night,

the king and manie yoong gentlemen with him, came to Bridewell, and

there put him and fifteene other, all in masking apparell, and then

tooke his barge and rowed to the cardinal's place, where were at

supper a great companie of lords and ladies, and then the maskers

dansed, and made goodlie pastime; and when they had well dansed, the

ladies plucked awaie their visors, and so they were all knowen, and to

the king was made a great banket.

This is the last recorded Christ-tide of this reign, and, doubtless,

as the king grew older and more sedate, he did not encourage the

sports which delighted him in his hot youth.

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