(1) Originally reproduced in “The Dietic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger” October 1876.
(2) From “The Order of the Golden Age”: its aims, its objects and its rules. (1904)
(3) Among the earliest of the tracts to examine the season of goodwill and its consequences for creation was "Christmas Cruelties" - published by The Humanitarian League in 1906. It's author Ernest Bell asserted that:
"...the genius of the people has inclined more to the pagan ideals of the festival than to the religious, with the result that our observance of the most sacred of the Church's festivals has been allowed to degenerate into a species of carnival...
"At this season a determined effort is made by everyone to be happy, with the result that untold misery follows."
The pamphlet compiled the major horrors endemic within livestock transport and slaughter and primed many a subsequent December editorial within vegetarian journals; which in turn generally urged their subscribers to write to regional newspapers. Several non-secular tracts were to follow along with a wave of correspondence published throughout the country each year. Perhaps the zenith of such activity entailed the support for the cause which was conveyed in a Daily Mirror editorial in 1916:
"It is good to see that many London newspapers are now at last taking up a matter again and again treated in this column of the Daily Mirror - the matter of our national celebration of Christmas.
Before the war we ventured annually to protest against the manner in which the beautiful old feast, the feast of hope and love, was certainly degenerating into an orgy of grab and greed.
It was turning - without, so far as one could hear, a word of protest on the part of the Church - into a mere carnival of gluttony involving immense suffering for animals - that, of course, is nothing to the average healthy gorging mortal - and having scarcely any religious or spiritual significance attached to it.
There was the overwork for the weary people ministering to the Christmas grabbers, there was the foolish expenditure on rubbish for noodles, and there was the Gargantuan display of rosette-stabbed raw carcases in all the streets. And, if anybody protested, however feebly, that perhaps - just possibly - by chance - the thing were being overdone, or wrongly done, there was the invocation of the ghost of Scrooge, and a great flood of abusive sentimentality from people glad to cite Dickens to their purpose.
Even now, no doubt, the stupid cry "Christmas as usual" will be raised; but as each war Christmas passes, it helps to reveal to those at home the vanity of the old clamour. Christmas is for our men at the front only this year; and for them it can only be a failure to be mitigated, as far as possible, by our sendings to them and our thoughts of them.
At home, now that the other newspapers see the point, we hope that the old external beefy celebration may be reduced to a minimum, and that again, after long years, the fairer, more mystical side of Christmas may emerge - showing it as a season symbolic of our hopes of world-unity, of common humanity, of brotherhood of men: hopes now indeed seemingly sunk very deep, but surely to re-emerge in due time, surely to be born again, in days when Christmas shall be something better than a chance for endless slaughter of animals, and for the consequent indigestion that is the animals' revenge upon the slaughterers."
Cited in: The Herald of the Golden Age, January 1917.
(4) The editorial also contained an extract from a recent edition of the society paper "The Queen” which revealed:
"The fasts of the Church, which were more generally observed by the nation as a whole in mediaeval times, acted as a corrective to the undoubtedly grosser feeding habits of the people in those days. The growth of education, the evolution of man's mind and morals, have tended to lessen the respect for fasting of previous epochs, until to-day, apart from certain sections of the Christian Church, the Persians and Mohammedans, fasting as a moral right has ceased to be definitely practised by the community. Freedom of thought has led to freedom of action, so that no one would think of enforcing by penalty the Act of Queen Elizabeth - if it still exists - which enacted that none should eat meat on "fish days" (the Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year) without a licence.
"Going further back, we read that in the eleventh century those who ate flesh during Lent were liable to have their teeth knocked out, while in the time of Charlemagne a law was passed for the newly conquered Saxony which attached the penalty of death for wanton disregard of the holy season.
"The need is the same to-day, for most of us - nearly all, in fact, who can afford it - eat too much, both in bulk and of one particular form of food. The form we refer to is butcher's meat.
"It must not be forgotten that England was made and the British Empire founded by men who did not by any means depend upon butcher's meat as their main source of nutriment. To-day, both among rich and poor, there is a sort of blind worship of flesh meat as the sole or chief source of strength. That this is a "vulgar error" most scientists who have studied the subject to-day affirm.
"Whether a knowledge of the undoubtedly stimulative properties of flesh underlay the wisdom of the Church in ordaining abstinence from meat as the chief part of fasting we cannot say. On the other hand, we know, and the ancients knew, that absolute fasting induces a certain excitation of mind which leads to man's perception of the spiritual and supernatural. Dreamers of dreams for a purpose, "seers" of visions, were accustomed to fast before trying to excite the spiritual, as opposed to the physical functions of the body"
(Cited in “The Herald of the Golden Age” - April 1907)
(5) From “The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review” of April 1915:
The Bishop of Oxford on Lent
A correspondent in the "Letter Box" refers to the wise words spoken by Bishop Gore on the subject of Dispensation from the obligations of Lent for the present year. Bishop Gore feels that he cannot accede to the request that he should give the dispensation, like a number of his brethren in office have done. He thinks that it should be left to the private conscience of the individual. Bishop Gore recognises the importance of fasting and the abstinence from flesh-food and luxuries. We quote from his article in the "Oxford Diocesan Magazine" for March:- "I believe that fasting is good for our health and for our spiritual life. Our own Church gives us specified days for 'fasting or abstinence,' and there is no doubt it was intended that we should observe the days as well by abstinence from flesh-meat as by diminishing the quality and quantity of our food. But we cannot, most of us, do all that is intended. What, then, is to be done? A general dispensation, such as the complete dispensation issued by Cardinal Bourne this year for those of the Roman Communion, reduces the obligation of all to the level of the lowest capacity. There is no need for this. While we should pay attention to any warnings, public or private, that the medical profession gives us, most of us can do this year as we have done other years. There are plenty of cheap things to be eaten, like beans and cheese, which are very wholesome and nourishing. I am persuaded that the best course is to leave it to the individual to decide, what in fact only he can decide, with whatever private advice he needs, how far he can safely go in the matter of fasting without danger to health and efficiency. The general dispensation levels the obligation of all to the capacity of the lowest.
(6) The Essential Lenten Handbook* contains "Traditional Hymns of Lent" and reveals:
"Much of the experience and expectations of the season of Lent may be discovered in the hymns that are commonly sung during the season. The words assigned to traditional and well-known melodies serve as one means of bringing many persons to a place within themselves that is seen as preparation for the journey. Two such hymns, "Again We Keep This Solemn Fast", attributed to Saint Gregory the Great (540 - 604) and a much later hymn, "Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days", by Claudia Hernaman (1838 - 1898) serve as illustrations. The first stanzas of each of these hymns is given below:
"Again we keep this solemn fast,
A gift of faith from ages past,
This Lent which binds us lovingly
To faith and hope and charity."