Christmas History 35. How was Christmas celebrated, 200 years ago? 1818 was a simpler time, but in many ways the spirit of Christmas was much the same: the importance of good company, good cheer, and thinking of others. The following article is from the Dublin Evening Post, 26th December 1818:
The following may be briefly recapitulated as the materials for the keeping of Christmas.
1. An absence of false religion, that is to say, of cruel opinions of God, and uncharitable opinions of each other.
2. A spirit that does not shrink at earning its enjoyments indoors by exercise in the cold without.
3. Holly or other evergreens to stick about our rooms, and remind of the never-dying beauties of nature.
4. Plenty for all the house; and if possible, for some poor neighbours.
5. A good blazing fire.
6. Chestnuts to crack in it, mince pies, plum padding, snap dragon, etc.
7. The Wassail Bowl, (the indispensable Christmas cup), a composition of spiced wine or ale, occasionally mixed with eggs, and always swimming with roasted apples, which were called Lamb’s Wool. This, with cake or bread, will alone constitute a Christmas repast.
8. Instrumental or vocal music, or dancing, or both, or all.
9. A short game of cards out of charity, if some of the company cannot do without it: lf possible, a round one, to keep up the glee of the younger sort; if not, a sharp pointed one to produce the requisite pungency of the older. Only, during the season, your regular whist-players really must not frown annihilation at any unhappy merry-soul, who takes a King for a Knave.
10. A raising the servants to as great a level of enjoyment with their masters and mistresses as possible, agreably, not only to the first known origin of this festival, which was the Saturnilia. but to reason humanity, and true delicacy, at all times.
11. A kiss (Good God! what will Tomkins say!) – a kiss under the misseltoe, by any one who has taken a walk to get it, provided be worthy, to whomsoever offers it, provided she does not refuse from a consciousness of being otherwise.
12. Such other pastimes as the oldest remember, the sprightliest approve, and the dullest do not think absolutely degrading.
“What would Tomkins say!” is a bit of a mystery, but my best guess is that it refers to the book Memoirs of the Life of Mr. Josiah Tomkins. Here’s a relevant snippet:
One day, when there was no body in the house but her and me, I took occasion to extol her beauty and voice, expressed my regard for her in an affectionate moving manner; and hinted, I could not be happy, unless I met with a return of affection. I then took her in my arms, and kissed her…
“Sure, though I were to comply with your lewd desires, (nay, kiss me not), could a little transitory pleasure atone for the loss of honour, the ruin of my soul, and the disgrace and misery which such an adventure would entail on me? No; Sir, I hope I shall be enabled to preserve myself for some worthy man, whom Providence shall be plased to appoint for my husband…
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