Inexhaustibility Of The Subject Of Christmas





LEIGH HUNT



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 plum-pudding?

About mince-pie?

About holly?

About ivy?

About rosemary?

About mistletoe? (Good Heavens! what an immense number of things

remain to be said about mistletoe!)

About Christmas Eve?

About hunt-the-slipper?

About hot cockles?

About blind-man's-buff?

About shoeing the wild-mare?

About thread-the-needle?

About he-can-do-little-that-can't-do-this?

About puss-in-the-corner?

About snap-dragon?

About forfeits?

About Miss Smith?

About the bell-man?

About the waits?

About chilblains?

About carols?

About the fire?

About the block on it?

About school-boys?

About their mothers?

About Christmas-boxes?

About turkeys?

About Hogmany?

About goose-pie?

About mumming?

About saluting the apple-trees?

About brawn?

About plum-porridge?

About hobby-horse?

About hoppings?

About wakes?

About feed-the-dove?

About hackins?

About yule-doughs?

About going-a-gooding?

About loaf-stealing?

About _Julklaps_? (Who has exhausted that subject,

we should like to know?)

About wad-shooting?

About elder-wine?

About pantomimes?

About cards?

About New-Year's Day?

About gifts?

About wassail?

About Twelfth-cake?

About king and queen?

About characters?

About eating too much?

About aldermen?

About the doctor?

About all being in the wrong?

About charity?

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

is _exhausted_!



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

earned it)--



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

Galilee.





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