Merry Christmas

J.A.R. Pimlott studies the development of the Christmas Spirit—from Pagan Saturnalia to Victorian family party

19th-century mummers. From a MS. in the Bodleian Library“One of the least pleasing effects of modern refinement,” wrote Washington Irving in the Sketch Book (1819-20), “is the havoc it has made among the hearty old holiday customs ... Many of the games and ceremonials of Christmas have entirely disappeared, and like the sherris sack of old Falstaff, are become matters of speculation and dispute among commentators.” Irving himself painted a memorable picture of what G. K. Chesterton called the “feudal Christmas”—Christmas as it had been kept by Sir Roger de Coverley and was romanticized by Sir Walter Scott.

England was merry England when

Old Christmas brought his sports again.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.