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Old English Christmases

The court celebrations of Christmas were observed with great splendor during the reign of King Charles the First. The royal family, with the lords and ladies, often took part themselves in the performances, and the cost to prepare costumes and sceneries for one occasion often amounted to ten thousand dollars. During Charles's reign, and preceding his, Ben Jonson wrote the plays, or masques, for Christmas. The court doings were, of course, copied outside by the people, and up to the twelfth night after Christmas, sports and feastings held high carnival.

So important were these Christmas court celebrations held by our ancestors, and of such moment were the preparations, that a special officer was appointed to take them in charge. To him were accorded large privileges, very considerable appointments, and a retinue equal to a prince's, counting in a chancellor, treasurer, comptroller, vice-chamberlain, divine, philosopher, astronomer, poet, physician, master of requests, clown, civilian, ushers, pages, footmen, messengers, jugglers, herald, orator, hunters, tumblers, friar, and fools. Over this mock court the mock monarch presided during the holidays with a reign as absolute as the actual monarch.

 

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