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Christmas Every Week: Christmas Customs

Christmas customs brighten up mid-winter, says Arnold Kellett's poem, yet at the centre of Christmas there is a simple manger-bed.

Martin Luther, so they say,
Placed a candle on a tree
To bring to mind the bright new star
That shone on Christ's Nativity

Then, later, Albert, German prince,
To please Victoria, wife and queen,
Set up a candled Christmas tree
The first most English folk had seen

And his good mate, Sir Henry Cole,
To greet his many absent friends,
Invented the first Christmas card,
While Dickens boosted Yule-tide trends

With Pickwick, Scrooge and Tiny Tim,
With goose and turkey, punch and rum,
With brandy-flaming Christmas pud
And finger-burnt Snapdragon plum

Then Tom Smith, selling parcelled sweets,
One night sat by a great log fire:
The sparks flew up and crackled loud,
And Christmas crackers did inspire

Then, choicest of Victorian fun,
The parents' secret worthy cause:
They fairy-taled Saint Nicholas,
And turned him into Santa Claus

Christmas customs! Rare romance!
You colour winter's dreary face
And yet Saint Francis bids you yield
And give to Christ the central place:

He custom-built his Christmas crib,
Where Shepherds, Wise Men, gently tread,
And hold their breath, and dare to peep
At God within a manger-bed.


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