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MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS DAY IN WALES., Issue 15683, 23 December 1914
MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS DAY IN WALES.
[.4 ii Rights RBS«BiVBi>.] [COPYBIQHT.] Primrose Cottage was pretty at all seasons, though, as its name suggests, its attractions were greatest in summer. But there was, too, a winter's loveliness when the araow lying in glistening heaps on the flower beds, adhering lace-like to the intertwining red thorns that overarched the gate, clinging more thickly to cherry and apple trees In the old-fashioned garden, and holding on caressingly to the ledges and roof of the house itself, made of the whole such a scene as one loves' to look upon in the pictorial Christmas' cards of the dear Home Land. Within the cottage the old grandfather's clock was ticking out the last hour before midnight on Christmas Eve. A party of four was waiting for the stroke of 12 before going out to sing the reasonable carols and hymns in front of the houses of some chosen friends. How the midnight hour lingered for those thus eagerly waiting. The door is opened upon the cold night, while ears are bent to catch the tolls from the town clock, whose home is in an ancient tower that had thrilled to the noise of Cromwell's guns. When at length the hour has I struck, our singers hurry forth, and their trained voices sweetly blending give fitting welcome to the birthday of Him of whom tie angels sang: "Glory to God in the highest, and on ' earth peace, good-will tp men»" Breakfast on that Christmas Day was considerately made late. To the choristers an added hour was rightly due. As for the young folk, who would expect them to do other than enjoy a lie-in, especially those among them who were home from a distant school? These schoolboys had sad memories of dormitory bells horribly clanging at half-past 6, of dressing by gaslight while they shivered like aspens, and of blue fingers laboring with stubborn buttons and ice-cold buttonholes. When breakfast was, however, • omfortably over, what a day of anticipated joy stretched its happy hours before them all, old and young alike. True, lor the women the morning had its household duties. The adult lords of creation, however, rested from their labors, while their talk on things in general showed the soothing effects of the fragrant weed which was a "shag" made in Bristol for the special enjoyment of the appreciative Welsh. Among none in all the household was there any discussion of the claims of nny religious service at their chapel, since such services were nowhere held. Protestants to their hearts' core, they discountenanced any observance of holy days other than the Sabbath. It must, howeven, be confessed that the Sabbath was kept with a strictness that surely more than atoned for all neglect in other directions. Happily, Christmas Day was a day of perfect freedom, and marriageable young people could go for lovers' walks, or inveigle each other beneath the cunningly-placed mistletoe hough, while boys might whistle without fear of the paternal hand, and girls could fondle their dolls. The boys, unregretted by the rest, took their whistling out of doors where the snow and ice had for them irresistible attractions. For, first of all, the hunter's instincts had to be satisfied. Skilfully-constructed traps and springes were waiting to be visited. The traps were small pits in which two sticks were placed, one resting on the other, while j at their point of junction a two-fingered spray was held in place. Resting on these sticks was a slate just large enough to cover the hole when it fell, as fall it would with much accuracy as to place when thrush, or starling, or sparrow alighted on the little spray before descending lower for the scattered crumbs. The springes, always locally known as " springles," were of a more elaborate manufacture, being hoops skilfully covered with string woven into squares, at each corner of which a hair loop was placed for the legs of unwary birds—the hair having been pulled not without peril from the tails of horses quick to object. After the small game had baen ruthlessly killed, and prepared for surreptitious cooking, the inevitable snowball %ht expended some of the suppressed energy, lo be followed by exciting slides on frozen pools in the freemen's "common"—a sufficiently true description of which enjoyment is found in the immortal adventures of the Pickwick Club. One o'clock, hungrily anticipated, brings the crowning "joy of Christmas Day. There ia no need of long-eounded gonga. In a moment or two every chair is filled at the extended table. What a scene! Holly and laurel artistically placed upon the walls, a huge yule "log blazing in the grate, the bright-colored bon-bons filling the place of flowers, and on every face a smile. What a mighty round of beef, ftnd what a Goliath among turkeys! As for the plum-pudding, who shall describe its glories as it is brought in with brandy Maze, the blue flames billowing hither and thither, endangering the berried holly that holds pride of place on the summit of the delectable globe? After it, the choicest mince pies lose their charm for the grown-ups, but the boys and girls are still able to go strong. The dessert, however, is but daintily attacked by all, and to gives opportunity for a seasonable word from the head of the family—a word that to-day happens to be on that aspect of "peace and good-will" that we name forgiveness. A certain Irishman, he says, was rn hospital and dangerously ill. It was thought advisable lo send for his esteemed and trusted priest, who, quickly arriving, discorered that the dying man was nursing hie anger against a neighbor. Hia reverence rightly refused to give absolution until there was reconciliation. So the neighbor was summoned, explanations were made, and hands were clasped in token of amity. When, however, the T-atient saw his aforetime enemy about to leave the ward, he struggled up till he Tested on hJ3 elbow, and with astonishing vigor said: "Tim, I've forgiven you, me being a dying man. Bub you'll understand that if by any chance I get. well all this won't count, and I'll get even with you if I can." After such, a dinner the afternoon is appropriately given to quiet meditation, nt least by the older folk. Reunion comes at teatime, when, however, there Is little lingering, for there is an "entertainment" nb the chapel which none would miss. For this ancient - Welsh town within ite ivy-covered walls, and dominated by the mighty towers of its castle, is very eoniexvatrve in the matter of amusements. Theatres, card parties, dances, and suchlike -wwldlv things aTe sternly discountonanoed. The chapel entertainment is a.cne orthodox and respectable. Its promoters, however, do not presume on their favored porition, lor they provide the beet. On this ChTwtaaa night the results of many a careful rehearsal are put in evidence. Th© recitation* and readiig» nte admrrablv given, but the attraction, as all understand, is in the singing ' How splerd'dly the foloa and part-songs and choruses are song, charming the ear and moving th* IwarT to its depth* The pleasurea of Chris'uisa Day ore extended, though in dmun.+ i.ntr inwiwre, to flta dosing hours of the year. Then they spring to life again lifc* tlie fani'«d ♦raUni of * dy«« A™ w,th th 6 **™ nt ot the Now Year the men have tuor first - footing to attend to, and tide Is almost a religions rite, ao essential i« >t for the threshold of oach. friend's house to be first crowed by that one whose presence is the best guarantee of fortune and happiness. To the women falls the agreeable duty of entertaining the "first-foot" and those wno> follow in his train, Ufa the boys, nowevex, who find themtelvea in their element. When day dawna they troop forth in parties to sing their good wishes for the new year—not, alas! out of pure benevolence, but in. hope of reward. Immediate hospitality » greatly valued by them, but coins of the realm are not deapieed. And if, as sometimes happened, a returned and prosperous colonial, for the e»fce of eld memories, scatters half, crowns, the boyaT irap of joy is full to the firim.' And, indeed, they deserve some Und& if not liberal, recognition, for
their eongss and nymna are sweetly rendered in the dawning of the day, while their gratitude is boisterously shouted in the old lines that have com© down through, generations:, A happy New Year, Mr 1 A happy New Year. A pocket full of money, And a cellar full of beer 1 a When this waa ended, another sacred rite remained for their joyous observance. Freeh spring water, plentiful enough, bubbling everywhere out of the blue limestone rocks, is put by them into a pretty jug Then, armed with a newly-gathered 6prig of box, they search out their adult friends, whose faces they lightly (?) sprinkle, while they shout "A happy New Year." An unexpected custom this to find in perferrid Protestant Wales. Does it rind its explanation in the application of "holy water," when, centuries, ago, there interesting ruins of monasteries in Monkton wero beautiful in their finished architecture, and possessed within that deeper loveliness which belongs to th© prayers and praise of consecrated lives? What mingled pkasure and sadness there is in thus looking back on the Christmas and New Year's Days of one's own " long ago," and how inevitably George Eliot's words find utterance: O memories' O Past that is! And even more inevitably one murmurs: Wales! Wales! My mother's 6weet home i« in Wales. TiU death be nass'd my love shall last; My longing, my biraeth for Wales!
MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS DAY IN WALES., Issue 15683, 23 December 1914
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