Now is the time of Christmas

Yes, it is, it’s that time of year.

Now there’s a misconception out there about Christmas, shared by many misty-eyed nostalgists of the golden days of yore (with whom, regular readers of Sweettenorbull may have noticed, I have a pronounced sympathy) that Christmas before the mid-Twentieth Century was an inherently tasteful thing, all about celebrating the birth of our Saviour through carol singing, church services, and the giving and receiving of modest gifts, often mere oranges. After the Second World War and the Sixties, Christmas became ever more commercial, hedonistic and materialistic, despite endless, desperate pleas by newspaper columnists and pious school teachers exhorting us to remember the true meaning of Christmas. So goes the misty-eyed nostalgist’s general view of events.

But we misty-eyed nostalgists of the golden days of yore will have to go hang, because, as this poem proves, Christmas has always brought out the bawd in those inclined to bawdiness. Here’s how they partied in the early sixteenth century:

 

Make we mery bothe more and lasse

For now is the time of Christimas.

Let no man cum into this hall,

Grome, page, nor yet marshall,

But that sum sport he bring withal,

For now is the time of Christmas.

If that he say he cannot sing

Sum oder sport then let him bring

That it may please at this festing,

For now is the time of Christmas.

If he say he can nought do,

Then for my love aske him no mo,

But to the stockes then let him go,

For now is the time of Christmas.

 (anon) Selected from ‘Medieval English Lyrics’, Faber and Faber 1991, Ed. R.T. Davies

Come to think of it, that does rather get me in the mood for Christmas. I don’t know – maybe it was the threat of the stocks that did it. It beats ‘Last Christmas’ hands down, anyway.

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