Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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village and mountains typical of the country. The figures are often numerous, and, as their makers generally dressed them in the costume of their contemporaries, are sometimes exceedingly quaint. An angel with a wasp-waist, in a powdered wig, a hat trimmed with big feathers, and a red velvet dress with heavy gold embroidery, seems comic to us moderns, yet this is how the Ursuline nuns of Innsbruck conceived the heavenly messenger. Many of the cribs and figures, however, are of fine artistic quality, especially those from Naples and Sicily, and to the student of costume the various types of dress are of great interest.4S
The use of the Christmas crib is by no means confined to churches ; it is common in the home in many Catholic regions, and in at least one Protestant district, the Saxon Erzgebirge.46 In Germany the krippe is often combined with the Christmas-tree ; at Treves, for instance, the present writer saw a magnificent tree covered with glittering lights and ornaments, and underneath it the cave of the Nativity with little figures of the holy persons. Thus have pagan and Christian symbols met together.
There grew up in Germany, about the fourteenth century, the extremely popular Christmas custom of " cradle-rocking," a response to the people's need of a lifelike and homely presentation of Christianity. By the Kindelwiegen the lay-folk were brought into most intimate touch with the Christ Child ; the crib became a cradle (wiege) that could be rocked, and the worshippers were thus able to express in physical action their devotion to the new­born Babe. The cradle-rocking seems to have been done at first by priests, who impersonated the Virgin and St. Joseph, and sang over the Child a duet :—
" Joseph, lieber neve min, Hilf mir wiegen daz kindelin.
Gerne, liebe muome min,
Hilf ich dir wiegen din kindelin." *
* "Joseph, dear nephew mine, help me to rock the Child." "Gladly, dear aunt, will I help thee to rock thy Child." (Note the curious words of relationship ; Joseph and Mary were both of the seed of David.)
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