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custom of bestowing presents is universal. In some places, a large bough, called the Christmas tree, is prepared the evening previous, and the boxes, baskets, trinkets, &c. sent by friends are suspended on the branches, with the name of the person for whom they are intended affixed to them. There is great eagerness, particularly among the children of a family, to ascertain what are their Christmas gifts. Houses are decorated with evergreens. In Great Britain, a branch of misletoe is hung up in great state, and a man may claim kisses of any woman who passes under it, plucking off a berry at each kiss. Both at Easter and Christmas it is customary to lay aside the distinctions of rank, to a certain extent, in imitation of the “meek and lowly” founder of the Christian religion. The old barons and their vassals shared the same Christmas luxuries at the same loaded table ; and even now, a servant may, without offence, kiss the daughter of his lady, if she chance to stand under the misletoe. On this occasion, the rich are expected to give bountifully to the poor.
The custom of bestowing gifts on the first of January, accompanied with wishes for a happy new year, is universal, according to the custom of the old Romans, on the Kalends of January. Almost every lover, husband, and parent, makes it a point to provide some acceptable present for the objects of his affection. On this day there is a great rivalry who shall call the earliest upon friends with the compliments of the season. In France, every man is expected to present bon-bons, at least, to the ladies of his acquaintance, and whoever visits a Parisian belle on the first of January, will find her table covered with the jewels, gloves, perfumes, and artificial flowers, that have been presented in the course of the day. The ancient Romans had a similar custom on the Kalends of January
The first of May was formerly observed with the pageantry of processions, music, dancing, and oxen decorated with ribbons and flowers. This festival is still observed in most parts of Europe. People of all classes go out into the fields to gather flowers and green branches, which they often leave in baskets at the door of some friend, accompanied with a poetical welcome to Spring. In most villages a May.pole is erected, decorated with garlands and ribbons, around which the young people dance right joyfully. The favorite of the village is usually chosen queen of May, and crowned with flowers. It was an old superstition that the first dew gathered in May was peculiarly beneficial to the complexion.
The limits of this work will not permit even a passing allusion to the numerous games and festivals of modern times; it is sufficient to say that women join in all, except those which are fatiguing and dangerous.
The habits and employments of fashionable circles are nearly the same throughout Christendom; the general tone of their manners is taken from the French and English, and is sometimes a compound of both. Their infants are almost always nourished and taken
care of by hired nurses. The fashion of dress, which varies more rapidly than the changing seasons, is an all-absorbing object of interest. The time that is not spent with mantuamakers, milliners, jewellers, and dressing maids, is devoted to parties, morning calls, and amusements, with an occasional exertion of ingenuity in some light fancy-work. Many of the court ladies of Bavaria are said to have no other employment than changing their dresses many times a day, and playing with their numerous parrots, dogs, and cats. But in every country there are among the wealthy classes honorable exceptions to these remarks—women who appear with elegance, without suffering dress to engross their thoughts, and who can find time for the graceful courtesies of life, without neglecting the cultivation of their minds, or the care of their children. In recent times, it is very common for ladies to form societies for various charitable purposes. Women of different nations sometimes unite their efforts for the same object; thus the English ladies joined with the German, to support the numerous Saxon orphans, who lost their parents in the wars of 1813. Sometimes the members of such societies busy themselves, for months together, in preparing useful and elegant articles, and afterwards sell them at a fair, which their friends and acquaintances are, of course, generally desirous to attend.
In many parts of Europe the peasantry do not change their style of dress in the course of centuries; but each of the innumerable districts has a fashion
peculiar to itself. They are distinguished from the same classes of women in Asia, by going with their faces uncovered, and almost universally dressing modestly high in the neck. Among the wealthy, female decorum is often sacrificed on the altar of unblushing fashion.
Beautiful hair is now, as it always has been, considered the greatest external ornament of woman; and it is one with which the poor are often endowed, as well as the rich. An Oxfordshire lass, with remarkably beautiful hair, was courted by a young man, whose friends objected to the match, unless the girl's parents would bestow fifty pounds as a dowry. She went to London, sold her hair to a wig-maker for sixty pounds, and triumphantly returned with the requisite sum. The daughter of an English clergyman, who had left his family in poverty, sold her own rich profusion of glossy ringlets, to buy books for her brother in college. A poor young German girl, who lived at service, had very long auburn hair, so remarkable for its beauty, that wealthy ladies repeatedly offered her large sums for it. She could never be persuaded to part with it; but when, during the grievous wars of 1812 and 13, she saw the rich and the noble giving their jewels for the relief of poor soldiers, her shining tresses “ of brown in the shadow, and gold in the sun,” were silently and cheerfully laid on the altar of patriotism. Who, after this, will say that beautiful hair, or any other outward adorning, is the greatest ornament of woman ?
The Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, usually celebrate their marriages in church. Pope Innocent the Third is said to have been the first who instituted this custom. Centuries ago, the ceremony was performed at the door of the church, as if the interior of the building were too holy for the purpose; but now the young couple kneel before the altar, to receive their nuptial benediction. The Catholics consider marriage as one of the sacraments.
During the time of Cromwell, the Puritans, in their zeal to change all popish customs, good or bad, ordered that marriages should be performed by magistrates, instead of priests; but the old custom was restored by Charles, and though marriages under the previous law were declared valid, many were so scru. pulous about the sanction of the church, that they were re-married by clergymen. The Roman Catholic clergy are still required to live in celibacy, unless the pope grants them an especial license to take a wife; and great numbers, both of men and women, seclude themselves in convents, from the idea that there is a peculiar sanctity in single life. In the Greek church, women under fifty years of age are not allowed to becoine nuns; their priests are required to marry, but in case of a wife's death are never permitted to marry again. Among the Protestants, I believe there is but one sect, who consider matrimony unholy : the Shakers even require husband and wife to separate when they join their community.
The wedding ceremonies vary in particulars, in different nations and districts, but there is a general
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