only did the Reformers wish to take the Mass out of Christmas, but also, as they became more rabid under Cromwell, to abolish it completely both as a religious celebration and as a time of social rejoicing.
We can well imagine that to the Puritans the wassailing, and the innocent holly and the ivy, which the Church had blessed, were as devilish as the " Anti-Christ Masse."
John Evelyn has left us a pitiful account of going to church to celebrate Christmas only to be greeted by ranting diatribe and abuse on the subject of popish superstitions.
The Cromwellian Parliament of 1652 decreed the abolition of Christmas, which was henceforth to be as idle a thing as tavern tippling, beat' baiting. and maypole dancing. But it took more than the Rump to sweep away by a decree what the Church had established for centuries.
Many of the old celebrations came back with the Restoration, and Christmas continued to he an important day in the official calendar.
Washington Irving's Christmas
Christmas continued to be an influence on literature, but of all the writers on the English Christmas is
Worldly superficiality and the empty glitter of society life were to be gradually substituted for true happiness. Some of Irving's comments might refer to to-day:
" The world has become more worldly. There is more of dissipation and less of enjoyment. Pleasure has expanded into a broader. but a shallower stream; and has forsaken many of those deep and quiet channels where it flowed sweetly through the calm bosom of domestic life. Society has acquired a more enlightened and elegant tone; but it has lost many of its strong local peculiarities. its home-bred feelings, its honest fireside delights."
Country Christmas is Best
Of course it is in the country that Christmas is still kept at its best. It was always so, from the time of that first Christmas with the Child in the manger, the ox and the ass in the stable, the shepherds watching their flocks and summoned to adore. It is the simple, modest, barn-like, country churches—such as were built by our forefathers in the Middle Ages, or the
" chapels " of Recusant Catholics, humble and poor—that form the best setting for the midnight Mass, especially when they are bright with holly and ivy, lit with homely, rustic