When the angels appeared to the wondering shepherds, as they kept watch over their sheep, in the fields near Bethlehem, the celestial chorus sang "that glorious song of old"—"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." So began our most beloved religious festival—Christmas, or Christes Mass.
——Maymie R. Krythe, All About Christmas
"Magi," a word meaning "august," was the name given to the priestly caste among the ancient Medes and Persians. These men were, in addition to "the keepers of the scared things, the learned of the people, the philosophers and servants of God," also highly esteemed as diviners and astrologists. No matter of importance took place without their being consulted."
During the sixteenth century, the English poet, George Wither, wrote his delightful Christmas poem, containing these lines:
So now is come our joyful feast
Let every man be jolly.
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed
And every post with holly.
Nowadays, in our busy modern world, we still enjoy "decking the halls." And, in doing so, we are following an ancient custom that has many interesting beliefs and legends associated with it.
I've collected Christmas books for years, and must have at least a couple hundred. Their contents range from anthologies of seasonal poetry, short stories, and novels, to histories of the holiday and its customs and traditions, sketches and narratives of remembered Christmases by various writers, cookbooks, even a craft book or two, though Myladylove collects the latter two categories and probably has upwards of a hundred Christmas volumes of her own.
This year, starting on the first day of December, I thought it might be fun to dip into a few of these works and share a quote or two from their pages—a few lines of poetry, a bit of prose, maybe even a recipe—on a daily basis, a sort of "Christmas Quotedown," which I'll put up in addition to my regular posts. I'll also include a photo of the book's cover, from which the day's quotes are taken—though a few, lacking a dust jacket or any sort of fancy cover design, might be decidedly non-photogenic. On the other hand, several of my favorite Christmas works are quotably rich troves, indeed, and thus might end up furnishing more than a day's worth of quotes—though I'm starting out with the notion of a different book each day.
Along the way, I hope I select some things you enjoy.