Note: Punch was a satirical magazine.
The designs for Christmas Cards, preserved in the Ambrosial Library at Milan, by the Old Masters, particularly those by Colpo Di Bacco, Dolce Far Niente, Pietro Punchinello. Fra SorapFito, and Villeqoiatcba, show no indications of plum-pudding, holly, or turkey, and only in one or two (by Poco Cubante) are there any signs of snow and icicles.
It is both interesting and instructive (especially for those young persons home for the holidays who may be detained in-doors through stress of weather) to trace back to the fountain-head one or two of the phrases which are everywhere current at this festive season.
” Christmas comes but once a year” is claimed for several writers of antiquity by their respective partisans; but it is hardly worth while to discuss the question, for the Author, whoever he was, must have been a man of singularly contracted views, not to see that his aphorism has no special reference to Christmas, but applies equally to Lent, Michaelmas, the Battle of Marengo, Mr. Punch’s birthday, and all other great anniversaries. The cheery good wish,
” A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” has been ascribed to Boniface and also to 111 I.aky, but it is older than either or both of them. Uttered from time immemorial between the twenty-fifth of December and the sixth of January, it may be traced back in illuminated MSS. and palimpsests, in venerable scrolls and papyri, through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the Invention of Learning and the Revival of Printing, till it is finally lost in the darkness which preceded the dawn of Gothic Architecture in the Byzantine Empire. ” What seasonable weather! ” That distinguished philologist, (?) gives a list of seventysix languages, and one hundred-and-eleven dialects, in which this well-known’formula occurs, extending from 196° 28′ N. to 47* 195′ 8.
The Christmas-Tree was first introduced into this country from the Black Forest by a German Band. Some harmless superstitions hide themselves amongst its branches. It should be dug up with a silver (certainly with an electro-plated) spade, by a distant relation, between the hours of 8 P.m. and 8 A.m., and removed, carefully wrapped in silver paper, in a cylindrical pot of vermilion hue, by four of the best girls in the next charity-school, wearing duffle bonnets trimmed with green ribbon, long yellow mittens, short red petticoats, and blue worsted stockings. If possible, a deputation from the nearest School Board, with their Beadles, should be invited to the exhibition of the Tree, and little appropriate gifts handed to them by anyone present who has passed the Oxford (or Cambridge) Local Examination. The Lady, having an establishment of her own, who receives the last present from a Christmas-Tree, may confidently look forward to one of three things happening in the course of the New Year—either the roasting-jaok will get out of order, or the housemaid will give warning, or there will be a fracture of crockery in the kitchen.
On New Year’s Eve it is considered very lucky if you dream that you are at a Fancy Dress Ball at the Bank of England.
On New Year’s Day, if the post arrives before you are down to breakfast, you will receive during the year a list of prices from a wine-merchant, patterns from a tailor, and the announcement of the purchase of a bankrupt draper’s stock and its unreserved sale at 55 per cent, below cost price. If, on the other hand, you are seated at the breakfast-table when the letters are delivered, twelve months will not elapse without your receiving a pressing solicitation to subscribe to the Grand National State Lottery of Boshnia, a card with the prices (up to the latest possible moment) of the best Wallsend, Silkstone, and Derby Brights, and a cordial invitation to dine (at your own expense) with the Patrons, Stewards, and Supporters of the Hospital for the Relief and Cure of Diseases of the Midriff, supported entirely by voluntary contributions.
Never make your Will on Old Christmas Day (Twelfth Day). There are reasons for this, which you can learn (after filling up the necessary forms, and paying the necessary fees) at the Registry, Court of Probate, Somerset House, W.C.