Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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with their tambourines and guitars, and accompanied the organ. The Mass over, they began to dance in the very body of the church.18 A later writer speaks of the Midnight Mass in Madrid as a fashionable function to which many gay young people went in order to meet one another., Such is the character of the service in the Spanish-American cities. In Lima the streets on Christmas Eve are crowded with gaily dressed and noisy folks, many of them masked, and everybody goes to the Mass.20 In Paris the elaborate music attracts enormous and often not very serious crowds. In Sicily there is sometimes extraordinary irreverence at the midnight services : people take provisions with them to eat in church, and from time to time go out to an inn for a drink,i and between the offices they imitate the singing of birds.21 We may see in such things the licence of pagan festivals creeping within the very walls of the sanctuary.
In the Rhineland Midnight Mass has been abolished, because the conviviality of Christmas Eve led to unseemly behaviour at the solemn service, but Mass is still celebrated very early—at four or five—and great crowds of worshippers attend. It is a stirring thing, this first Mass of Christmas, in some ancient town, when from the piercing cold, the intense stillness of the early morning, one enters a great church thronged with people, bright with candles, warm with human fellowship, and hears the vast congre­gation break out into a slow solemn chorale, full of devout joy that
" In Bethlehem geboren 1st uns ein Kindelein."
It is interesting to trace survivals of the nocturnal Christmas offices in Protestant countries. In German " Evangelical" churches, midnight or early morning services were common in the eighteenth century ; but they were forbidden in some places because of the riot and drunkenness which accompanied them. The people seem to have regarded them as a part of their Christ­mas revellings rather than as sacred functions ; one writer com­pares the congregation to a crowd of wild drunken sailors in a
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