With tonight's stint on GB News safely put to bed, welcome to the second episode of our Christmas Tale for Our Time - from Washington Irving's Sketch Book of 1820, an account of an old-fashioned English Yuletide.
In tonight's episode our narrator and his companion arrive just as the Christmas Eve observances are in full swing:
As we approached the house, we heard the sound of music, and now and then a burst of laughter from one end of the building. This, Bracebridge said, must proceed from the servants' hall, where a great deal of revelry was permitted, and even encouraged, by the Squire throughout the twelve days of Christmas, provided everything was done conformably to ancient usage. Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snapdragon: the Yule log and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.
In today's cheerless Britain, Cabinet minister Thérèse Coffey has cautioned against what she calls "snogging under the mistletoe", but two centuries back they were willing to live a little. And don't even think about this:
The party now broke up for the night with the kind-hearted old custom of shaking hands.
Thank you for your kind words about this latest Christmas Tale for Our Time. Fran Lavery, a First Weekend Founding Member from New Mexico, writes:
This little captivating tale is snapping me straight into the Christmas spirit. Nothing quite like Washington Irving to transport one out of the present time and place and set one down in another. The descriptive language is dense and rich like a brandy soaked Christmas pudding. My mouth watered just listening. I love the way 'cordial' is spoken. It makes me wish for times when people were more cordial to one another. I guess you can take little things like how we speak for granted. There's one way we think is right then there's the British way.
You're quite right, Fran: It's the richness of the detail that is Mr Irving's greatest gift to posterity.
I'll be here tomorrow not only with Part Three of Washington Irving's "Old Christmas" but also with another hour on GB News, live at 7pm GMT (2pm Eastern) with a replay at midnight GMT (7pm Eastern).
If you've yet to hear any of our over fifty audio adventures (all handily archived in Netflix tile format - or, for Mr Snerdley, Acorn TV tile format), you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For details on membership, see here - and, if you're seeking a Christmas present for a fellow fan of serialized fiction, don't forget our Steyn Club Gift Membership.