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On Christmas Giving and Holiday Practice.

BY HELENA MAGUIRE.

Lo! now is come our Joyful’st Feast,
Let everyone be jollie.
Each room with yivie leaves is drest,
And every post with hollie.
Now all our neighbors’ chimneys’ smoke,
And Christmas logs are burning.
    Without the door let Sorrow lie,
    And if, for cold he hap to die,
    Wee’l bury him in a Christmas pie,
    And evermore be merrie.
—Old Song.

Truly, children, Christmas is our “joyful’st feast,” and is not this because it is the kindliest feast of all the year? And surely those children are happiest who, during all the Christmas holidays, try to make joy for others as well as for themselves.

Do you know, almost everyone believes that all the real joy of this world is in the hands of you children; that without you there simply would not be any joy at Christmas or at any other time! Is not that wonderful? Is it not a great thing to be possessed of the power to give, to disperse joy?

“The most joyful hours of my life have been those that I have spent with children,” said one, and I believe that every “grown up” who knows and loves the children that are reading this will agree with him.

So, realizing this, children, why not resolve that you will make the Christmas holidays this year more abounding in joy for others than ever before?

It is so specially easy for you children who are studying music to do this. Because, of all that goes to make merriment, jollity or a good time generally, there is nothing so good as music. For the real, old-time Christmas festivities music is simply indispensable.

Old chronicles of Christmas festivities invariably commence something like this—“We were ushered in with the sound of minstrelsy,” or “As we approached the manor house the sound of music burst upon our ears.”

Washington Irving tells us that, in olden times, “the harp and carol resounded all day long, all during the twelve days of Christmas,” and that song, as well as story, played an important part in the celebration.

PREPARATION FOR CHRISTMAS.

Do not forget this children, do not forget that, in the preparations for Christmas, and in the enjoyment of the vacation days that follow it, if you would give real joy to all you love, you must not neglect your music practice.

Do all that you can to prepare and to keep in practice some bright music for Christmas eve, for New Year, and for “Little Christmas” or Twelfth Night, also. This is one way that you can give joy to the “grown ups,” your music teacher included, for what pleases a teacher more than to learn that her little ones care enough for her to practice even during the distractions of the holidays!

I know one little boy who made his holiday practice a New Year’s gift to his teacher. He had heard her say that “it would give her much pleasure if John would memorize,” and he really did want to give her pleasure, so he spent one hour of each of his precious holidays at the piano, and on New Year’s day he said to her, “Here is my gift,” and sitting down he played a little selection from memory. Was not that a pretty gift from pupil to teacher?

Be assured that a nicely prepared lesson at the end of the holidays will give your music teacher more real pleasure than an elaborate gift, to make which you have had to “steal” time from your practice.

Mind, I do not mean to discourage the giving of gifts. I believe i n it very much indeed, but I think that we perhaps need to put a bit of thought into the question as to what really will give those we love most real joy. And I do think that you musical children should try in every way possible to make your music a means of joy to others. Gifts of joy are so eminently satisfactory.

A PRETTY CUSTOM OF OLD ENGLAND.

One old custom that it is very pretty for the children of to-day to revive is that of being “Christmas Waits.” In the old country, long ago, the little children made the rounds of their neighborhood very early on Christmas morning, stopping at each friend’s house to sing a Christmas carol, and then scamper off through the frosty air to another friend’s, where they would stop and sing as before. These were called “the waits.”

Now, why cannot you children do this? Six or eight of you practice together some of the lovely old Christmas carols that you will find in your Sunday-school hymn books, or in the Christmas magazines, or which you can purchase at the music stores for eight cents apiece, and perhaps one of you could play the guitar or violin also. There is one lovely old carol—“Sing, My Soul, in Adoration”—which was written by Johann Kruger in 1657. Then there is the lovely “Hark! What Mean Those Holy Voices,” “See! Amid the Winter’s Snows,” “Sleep Holy Babe Upon Thy Mother’s Breast,” “Come, All Ye Faithful,” and many, many others which are beautifully appropriate for early Christmas morning.

Just think what a good time you can have, and how much joy you can give to others by going together very early on this morning that “Sees December turned to May, when the chilly winter’s morn smiles like a field beset with corn,” by going together, a merry, holly-laden little group, singing before the homes of your friends, and especially, I hope, before the door of anyone whom you know to be lonely, and perhaps sad, on this good day. Then, laying on the doorstep a bunch of holly, to which a bright greeting has been tied, scamper off to sing some place else. A Christmas song, a bunch of Christmas greenery, and a kind Christmas wish—who would not be the happier for receiving these? Truly, the old ways were good ways!

Then, too, would it not be well to spend some time practicing the accompaniments of these hymns on the piano, so that when “the family” gathers, happily, together in the evening during the holidays you will be able to play nicely the accompanim e n t s for them to sing to. The accompaniment is such a very important thing, you know. No one can sing well to a poor accompaniment. And it would be well to practice transposing these hymns, for some are sure to wish to sing the hymns either lower or higher than they are written, and you should be ready to play them in any key required.

MUSICAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS.

But to return to gifts. Make them, as far as possible, musical. Almost every little friend you have is studying music, and of the grown up friends there are many who would be pleased to have their love for things musical complimented by a little musical gift from a little musical friend. These should not be expensive. Do you know that in the Perry and the Brown Penny collections of pictures there are many very good musical subjects? These, mounted on bright colored mounts, with a knot of ribbon, make pretty gifts. Or, for a friend who is interested in musical biography, six or more of the great musicians’ pictures from these collections, in one of the dark green paper covers, which come with the pictures at two cents apiece, and tied with Christmas ribbon, is very appropriate. Then there is a beautifully colored set of post cards published here in Boston, called the “Art Series.” In these come some musical subjects, and with them also can be purchased the daintiest little frames in colors to match the predominating color in the picture. These are ten cents for the card and ten for the frame, and make very acceptable and artistic little gifts.

One more idea. Last year one of my pupils made me a gift which will be found useful by both those who are pupils as well as teachers. I found mine very much so. My little girl covered a square of stiff cardboard with soft paper in a delicate shade of brown; to this she fastened securely a small block of paper and tied a little brown pencil, and over the block she printed in gilt letters, “She looketh well to the ways of her pupils.” If you make some of these for your friends who are taking lessons, use some of these mottoes:

“Practice makes perfect.”

“Genius begins the work, but it is industry that finishes it.”

“Music is the essence of order and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful.”

“He who would do a great thing well must have done the simplest things perfectly.”

“Beauty is visible harmony.”

Children’s gifts should be simple. The love that you put into them will make them rich and of priceless worth to those who receive them.

So remember, children, that we “grown-ups” are depending upon you, music teachers included, for our Christmas joys, and that, while we wish you to have the merriest kind of a Christmas holiday, we want you to give us the joy of finding that, in the midst of your pleasures and fun, you have made time to do your duty at the piano also. You will give us this good gift, will you not?

 

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