From the recording Apples in Winter
Colonial Christmas celebrations in the 18th century differed greatly from our modern holiday, even in those practices that we think of as "traditional." The Christmas tree and decorations, cards and extensive gift-giving all developed during the mid to late 19th century. Colonial era customs also differed greatly throughout the colonies. In New England, the Calvinist Puritans and Protestants completely outlawed any observance of Christmas, considering it a pagan (or at least Catholic) holiday. In Virginia, however, the Christmas season was a time for visiting, parties, dinners, and most of all, balls. Dancing was by far the most popular form of entertainment for young and old, and an integral part of social life. Children would begin learning to dance at an early age, and adults would also take instruction from local or itinerant dancing masters in order to learn the latest dances and steps. Dancing instruction also included lessons in essential social skills, deportment and manners. These three tunes are from various editions of The English Dancing Master, first published by John Playford in 1651 with new editions until 1728. The combined volumes contained instructions and music for hundreds of dances, many of which are still in use today. "Chestnut" (aka "The Dove's Figary") is from the first Playford edition in 1651. "Hole in the Wall" appeared in 1698, and is one of several tunes written by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) that were used by contemporary dance masters for newly written dances. "Parson's Farewell" also appeared in the 1651edition of Playford, though the tune had been included in manuscripts of lute music as early as 1600.