of joy and happiness amongst loved ones. Even if one is unable to be with family on this special holiday, a close knit friend would suffice. In the “Christmas Sketches”, Geoffrey Crayon vividly depicts the nature and style of how spending Christmas in the land of his forefathers with an old fellow-traveler sparked an image in his eye of true love.
Crayon viewed England at Christmas time as a site of true beauty. He’s taken back by the elegant appearance of the cottages lining the streets. “Even the poorest cottage welcomed the festive season with green decorations of bay and holly-the cheerful fire glanced its ray through the lattice, inviting the passengers to raise the latch, and join the gossip knot huddled round the hearth, beguiling the long evening with legendary jokes and oft-told Christmas tales.” (p. 164) This sends a warm feeling through the cockles of his heart, bringing out in him the real meaning of this time of year. A typical mid-winter’s evening in England is made possible through the description given to us by Crayon, the hollow blast of the wintry wind, loved ones gathered round a hearty fire, and the sparkling of the snow as the bright moon in the nighttime sky shines upon it. The laughter of people, the festive decorations, and the sounds of a harp playing Christmas carols in the distance only adds to the excitement of another splendid Christmas season.
Crayon reflects on his stage coach journey through the town of Yorkshire. He speaks of the gay reactions of the other people in the stage coach, overhearing conversations of their ever-growing enthusiasm in seeing their own family members, as well as the traditional gathering of the fulfilling Christmas dinner. The three young people whom seem to stick out in his mind are “fine, rosy-cheeked school-boys” with a cheerfulness about them. All the young boys talked about was how excited they were to be going back home for the holidays, waiting to see their family and pets. The most important of these being a pony named Bantam.
Shortly after arriving at a very hospitable-looking English inn, Crayon decided that this was the place where he would spend the evening until morning. Once again he was in awe by the appearance which brought out a feeling of homeliness of the inn, highly polished copper and tin vessels, the Christmas green as it decorated the walls, and the strips of meat as they suspended from the ceiling of the dining area. The housemaids were as he had pictured them, dressed with the utmost trimness, scampering about at a brisk pace under the wandering eye and directions of the landlady. They would always seem to try to sneak in a brief conversation with the travelers of the inn. This old-fashioned style of inn allowed Crayon to meet a long time traveling buddy whom he had not seen in some time, Frank Bracebridge. Bracebridge had invited Crayon to spend Christmas at his father’s country seat located a few miles from the inn. This would prove to be a real experience of true English tradition for Crayon.
“Our road wound through a noble avenue of trees, among the naked branches of which the moon glittered as she(the carriage) rolled through the deep vault of a cloudless sky. The lawn beyond was sheeted with a slight covering of snow, which here and there sparkled as the moonbeams caught a frosty crystal; and at a distance might be seen a thin transparent vapor, stealing up from the low grounds and threatening gradually to shroud the landscape.” (p. 174) These two sentences capture Crayon’s best depiction, by far, of English landscape on this particular Christmas Eve. This picturesque account of the country scenery gives an air of magnificence of the Christmas season.
Shortly after arriving at the house of Bracebridge’s father, Crayon is over-taken by the furniture and appearance of numerous items. “Over the heavy projecting fireplace was suspended a picture of a warrior in armor, standing by a white horse, and on the opposite wall hung a helmet, buckler, and lance.” (p.177) These types of features indicate a wealthy estate to Crayon, who also admires the deer antlers on which hang peoples personal belongings, the craftsmanship of the furniture, and the plush carpeting overlaying the oaken floor. Crayon writes the about the mere image of how delightful it was to see the old squire of the house sit neatly next to the glowing fire made by the Yule clog. To add a touch of warmth to this picture, Crayon remarks of a lazy dog outstretched alongside of his master’s feet, yawning and positioning itself before the heat of the fireplace prior to falling asleep. “There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease.” (p. 177)The warmth and kindness is felt by Crayon at this point. “I had not been seated many minutes by the comfortable hearth of the worthy old cavalier, before I found myself as much at home as if I had been one of the family.” (p. 178) The relaxing and peaceful atmosphere which is present in the country seat relates to what our class had discussed about key characteristics of country life. Since this house is extremely well-kept, it can be concluded that Bracebridge’s family values what they own. Accordingly, the outside gate enclosing the property and the neatly trimmed shrubbery add a sense of a high-class family, that which may be prominent of old English life.
After a delightful dinner, Crayon was introduced to a long-standing family tradition. “The squire himself figured down several couple with a partner, with whom he had affirmed he had danced at every Christmas for nearly half a century.” (p. 180) Each member of the family danced with jubilee to the Christmas music. Before long, though, Crayon realized that the night was coming to an end and the dawn of Christmas Day in England was right around the corner.
Crayon opens up the Christmas Sketch entitled ‘Christmas Day’ by saying, “When I woke the next morning, it seemed as if all the events of the preceding evening had been a dream, and nothing but the identity of the ancient chamber convinced me of their reality.” (p. 183) This statement proves that Crayon had not experienced anything of this sort in his entire life. Perhaps, he had believed that he could not have experienced such a festive time with people who made him feel like part of the Bracebridge family. Above all, Crayon looks upon the singing of the three young children outside of his bedroom door as capturing the true spirit of an English Christmas. This was followed by a tradition, which Crayon later realized, of family prayer. “I afterwards understood that early morning service was read on every Sunday and saint’s day throughout the year, either by Mr. Bracebridge or by some member of the family.” (p.184)
“In deference, perhaps, to the notions of Mr. Bracebridge, he had made diligent investigations into the festive rites and holiday customs of former times.” (p. 188) This comes in reference to the church service and the band of country lads who paraded about the Bracebridge’s home filling the air with delightful tunes of the Christmas fashion.
Finally, Crayon is amazed at the sight and wonder of the Christmas dinner. “The table was literally loaded with good cheer, and presented an epitome of country abundance, in this season of overflowing larders. A distinguished post was allotted to ‘ancient sirloin,’ as mine host termed it; being, as he added, ‘the standard of old English hospitality, and a joint of goodly presence, and full of expectation.'” (p. 198) He recognizes the decorations of a pheasant pie full of peacock feathers, in imitation of a beautifully colored tail. This, along with the decorated pig’s head which was set as the main course, astonished Crayon in such a way, causing him to see that the event of Christmas dinner in England was, indeed, elaborate.
I believe that Crayon’s views on old English tradition would be quite similar to mine. Although I have not experienced such traditions, let alone been to England, they seem to bring with it joy and closeness among family and close friends. Christmas is a time to be spent with loved ones. Crayon was welcomed with open-arms to spend Christmas with Bracebridge’s family. The landscape and the way he viewed the interior of the country seat seem to bring about the same image which enters my mind when thinking about old English traditions. Crayon acted as though he entered into this new and strange environment with an open-mind. Not knowing what to expect, he seemed overwhelmed with all of the experiences and traditions which were commonplace to those living in England. By capturing vivid accounts of his travels and the picturesque style in which he described the layout of the land allowed me to comprehend this endeavor which, surely, made a strong impact in his life, one which will never be forgotten.