Christmas Comes but Once a Year
Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe's Diary)
F. 117v (Greg I.184)
Lent vnto Thomas hewode & John webster } the 2 of novmber 1602 in earneste of a playe } called chyssmas comes bute one ayeare the } some of } iijli
F. 118 (Greg, I.185)
Lent vnto John dewcke the 23 of novmber 1602 } to paye vnto hareye chettell & thomas deckers } in parte of paymente of a playe called crysmas } comes but once a yeare the some of } xxxxs
pd at the a poyntment of Thomas hawode the } 26 of novmber 1602 … to harey chettell in } fulle paymente of a playe called cryssmas } comes but once a yeare the some of } xxxxs
Payments for Properties (Henslowe's Diary)
F. 118v (Greg, I. 186)
Layd owt for the companye the 9 of novmber } 1602 to by ij calleco sewtes & ij buckerom } sewtes for the playe of cryssmas comes but } once a yeare the some of } xxxviijs 8d Sowld vnto the company the 9 of desember } 1602 ij peces of cangable taffetie to macke } a womones gowne & a Robe some of } iiijli xs for the play of crysmas comes but once a year
"Christmas Comes but Once a Year" was written for Worcester's players while they were at the Rose, 1602-3; the purchase of apparel in December 1602 invites the conjecture that the play was in performance by February 1603.If so, its maiden run would have been disrupted by London playhouse closures due to the fatal illness of Queen Elizabeth in mid-March 1603 and further by the general raggedness of theatrical schedules later in the spring due to the onset of plague.
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
The impetus behind the play is likely to have been the proverbial saying that is repeated in the title. Books of proverbs record the appearance of the phrase as early as 1573, in Five hundredth points of good Husbandrie ... by Thomas Tusser (Tusser).
References to the Play
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For What It's Worth
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Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 28 March 2015.