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[WRITTEN IN INDIA ON CHRISTMAS DAY.]
HERE is CHRISTMAS Day again! There is something as animating in the mere announcement as in the sound of a merry bell. It is the season of cheerful piety, of the renewal of old customs that keep the heart alive and tender, and of pure and child-like enjoyment. In our native land it is a time when the dreariness of out-of-doors nature heightens and concentrates the social pleasures and affections within the sheltered home. The hard ground and the frozen sheets of water remain unthawed by the pale and sickly sun ; but the heart of man melts within him, and the fountain of love is unlocked. The huge Christmas fire is the blazing sun that now warms and illumines each domestic circle. How beauti. fully its red light tinges every object in the snug apartment, and flashes on cheerful faces that glow as beneath the fervour of summer skies! There is no winter within domestic walls.
Now do the most busy and bustling of men of business pause for a few pleasant hours in their quick career, and casting off all feverish anxiety for the future, abandon themselves wholly to present pleasure, or dwell with a serene and grateful tenderness on the joys of the long-vanished past. The stern pride of philosophy and the zeal of the worshipper of Mammon are suspended for a day. The heart has an undivided reign over the kindlier and purer elements of our nature. Now friends long separated, and scattered over different corners of the kingdom, are re-called to one common centre, and surround the hearth that once echoed to the peals of their boyish laughter. The happy patriarch of the family gathers again around him the forms that he cherished from their cradles, whom the cares and duties of manhood have drawn from the paternal roof. The day is sacred to the affections. The Goddess of domestic love demands the entire man. The Christmas hearth is a shrine at whích tender recollections, charity and forgiveness, and social feeling and a gentle joy are the only acceptable offerings. On this day especially does
The inviolate island of the sage and free, notwithstanding its cold and cloudy clime, deserve the title of Merry England. The very streets of her dingy metropolis look bright with happy faces and gay garments. The churches are decorated with sparkling holly, and sprigs of evergreen are in every window. With ponderous cakes, a rich mass of sweets, whose sugary coats rival in their brilliancy the snow upon the hills, and with the gigantic roast beef of old England, almost every table in the land is groaning. Even the poor man's heart is gladdened. The toil-worn mechanic and the humble cottager have for this day at least clean clothes and a substantial meal, and a cheerful fire, and a merry meeting of their unsophisticated associates. With a smiling air, and a hurried yet careful tread, they rush from the busy bake-house with their earthen dish of beef and potatoes that scents the atmosphere as they pass along. What an appetite-provoking sight and savour! The school-boy with his shining face will not“ • whine” to-day, nor creep, like snail, unwillingly to his task. This long-looked for day is to him, as to many others, the happiest of the year. His head has been as full of confectionary visions as his stomach will now be of the substantial reality. There is such a contagious merriment around, that the adult who does not feel like a boy again is not fit to be a man. Every generous spirit abandons itself to the influence and character of the season.
And all is conscience and tender heart. It is sad to recollect that we in this far land are excluded from so many of these simple but true enjoyments. All we can now do is to enjoy the memory of them.
A sound-headed man, however, cannot but be something of a cosmopolite and optimist. Wherever there are human hearts there are social feelings; and even in solitude, where external nature is not excluded by prison doors, there is always beauty : and God is every where. He leaves no corner of the world, no class of his creatures, forlorn and fatherless. Why then should we be guilty of an impious discontent, and recall the past only to feed our cares?
A distance of fifteen thousand miles, a tropical sun, and the presence of foreign faces need not make us forgetful of homedelights. That strange magician, Fancy, who supplies so many corporeal deficiencies and mocks at time and space, enables us to pass, in the twinkling of an eye, over the dreary waste of waters that divides us from the scenes and associates of our youth. We tread again our native shore. We sit by the hospitable hearth, and listen to the laugh of children. We exchange cordial greetings and friendly gifts. There is a resurrection of the dead, and a return of vanished years. We abandon ourselves to this sweet illusion, and again
Live o'er each scene, and be what we behold.
The warm-hearted and the imaginative cheat Time of half his triumph. The happiness of a dream is real, however false its images. To be pleasurably deceived is no great hardship. Happiness is our object, and the wise care little for the means. It is enough to know that the end is good and true, however it may have been obtained; for he who is in the enjoyment of genuine happiness cannot have forfeited any right of conscience to that precious dower :-evil intentions are not thus rewarded.
If, therefore, we turn our imagination into a right path, we can hardly give it too free a rein. Let any man take a retrospect of his life, and sum up his moments of real pleasure, and he will soon discover how much he owes to this glorious faculty. It is to the freshness and fervour of imagination in the dawn of life that we are to attribute the radiance of early joy. All things sparkle in its light, like the dew-bespangled fields of morning.
Let such amongst us as are willing to be children again, if it be only for an hour, resign ourselves to the sweet enchantmeci that steals upon the spirit when it indulges in the memory of early and innocent enjoyment. Let us seek again each wellremembered haunt of happier years. Ah! then how many faces long since faded shall bloom again! The white shroud of winter may conceal the countenance of earth, but the shroud of mortality shall be parted. The spring of human nature shall return. The cerulean heaven of many a laughing eye shall shine as brightly and tenderly as ever,—the voice of human merriment, more sweet than the song of birds, shall again respond to the music of the mind.
Even when this dream departs, we are not utterly forlorn. We return to this foreign shore—this distant exile—in sadness, but not despair. We have all of us either children or friends in our native land. Perhaps we may once again embrace them-to part no more! But should fate deny the consummation of this dearly cherished hope--should we never again revisit " in the flesh” that happy circle—we may at least sympathize in their enjoyments. Parents especially have reason to hail this festive season with peculiar interest. The fireside holidays, not less delightful than the sunny noons of summer, are enjoyed by their dear little offspring with the same zest and intensity as thrilled their own hearts of yore. Their small, ruddy faces are illumined by the flickering light of the burning logs so liberally heaped upon the grate. The firewood crackles cheerily, and the ches. nuts are swelling and bursting on the hob with a startling sound. The glories of the hospitable board, are demolished with a spirit
and celerity that maturer mouths would in vain essay to rival. The good things that go untasted from our tables in this City of Palaces, are treated with more respect by our little representatives in Britain. Even the substantial Christmas turkey disappears like a dream before the attacks of these gallant though lilliputian gastronomists. As the peasants in Goldsmith's Deserted Village wondered how the school-master's one small head could contain such a load of learning, we are puzzled to conceive how each little stomach can make room for such large stores of Christmas luxuries. Dear boys—sweet girls--ye seem more provident than your age would warrant! Is it because Christmas comes but once a year that ye lay in so lavish a supply ?
But there is a limit even to the appetite of healthy children, and the rich, delightful meal, interrupted only by irrepressible bursts of laughter at jests more rife with merriment than wit, like all earthly enjoyments must have an end. It is succeeded, however, by a variety of delightful gambols. The bunch of misletoe is suspended from the ceiling, and occasions
Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
Nods and becks and wreathed smiles. The little gay Lotharios and the flirts and coquettes in miniature, now present a scene that awakens a thousand exquisite recollections in the minds of the elder spectators. The boys betray a consciousness that they are doing a manly thing. The little misses think it necessary to appear coy and reluctant, yet seize sly occasions to look as killingly as they can, at their favorites of the bolder sex, and seem to recollect, as often as it suits their inclination, that under the green misletoe kissing is lawful, and " killing, no murder.”.
Then follow Blind-man's-buff, Ilunt-the-slipper, and a round of accustomed games.
After or before all these, according to the taste of the donors, come the Christmas presents, which are received by the happy little creatures with such grateful transports, and