Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
wonder, awe, and tenderness, and the sense of reconciliation between Heaven and earth. Composed probably in France, " Adeste, fideles " came to be used in English as well as French Roman Catholic churches during the eighteenth century. In 1797 it was sung at the chapel of the Portuguese Embassy in London ; hence no doubt its once common name of" Portuguese hymn." It was first used in an Anglican church in 1841, when the Tractarian Oakley translated it for his congregation at Margaret Street Chapel, London.
Another fine Latin hymn of the eighteenth-century French Church is Charles Coffin's " Jam desinant suspiria." x4 It appeared in the Parisian Breviary in 1736, and is well known in English as " God from on high hath heard."
The Revolution and the decay of Catholicism in France seem to have killed the production of popular carols. The later nine­teenth century, however, saw a revival of interest in the Noel as a literary form. In 1875 the bicentenary of Saboly's death was i celebrated by a competition for a Noel in the Provencal tongue, and something of the same kind has been done in Brittany.T5 The Noel has attracted by its aesthetic charm even poets who are j anything but devout; Theophile Gautier, for instance, wrote a graceful Christmas carol, " Le ciel est noir, la terre est blanche."
On a general view of the vernacular Christmas poetry of France it must be admitted that the devotional note is not very strong ; there is indeed a formal reverence, a courtly homage, paid to the Infant Saviour, and the miraculous in the Gospel story is taken for granted ; but there is little sense of awe and mystery. In harmony with the realistic instincts of the nation, everything is dramatically, very humanly conceived ; at times, i indeed, the personages of the Nativity scenes quite lose their sacred character, and the treatment degenerates into grossness. At its 1 best, however, the French Noel has a gaiety and a grace, joined 1 to a genuine, if not very deep, piety, that are extremely charming, j Reading these rustic songs, we are carried in imagination to 1 French countrysides ; we think of the long walk through the j snow to the Midnight Mass, the cheerful reveillon spread on the
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