Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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a charming and quite untranslatable German lullaby has come down to us :
" Sausa ninne, gottes minne, Nu sweig und ru !
Wen du wilt, so wellen wir deinen willen tun, Hochgelobter edlcr furst, nu schwcig und wein auch nicht, Tuste das, so wiss wir, dass uns wol geschicht." s°
It was by appeals like this Kindelwiegen to the natural, homely instincts of the folk that the Church gained a real hold over the masses, making Christianity during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries a genuinely popular religion in Germany. Dr. Alexander Tille, the best historian of the German Christmas, has an interesting passage on the subject: " In the dancing and jubilation around the cradle," he writes, "the religion of the Cross, however much it might in its inmost character be opposed to the nature of the German people and their essential healthiness, was felt no longer as something alien. It had become naturalized, but had lost in the process its very core. The preparation for a life after death, which was its Alpha and Omega, had passed into the background. It was not joy at the promised ' Redemption \ that expressed itself in the dance around the cradle ; for the German has never learnt to feel himself utterly vile and sinful : it was joy at the simple fact that a human being, a particular human being in peculiar circumstances, was born into the world. . . . The Middle Ages showed in the cradle-rocking ' a true German and most lovable childlikeness.' The Christ Child was the * universal little brother of all children of earth,' and they acted accordingly, they lulled Him to sleep, they fondled and rocked Him, they danced before Him and leapt around Him in dulci jubilo" 5* There is much here that is true of the cult of the Christ Child in other countries than Germany, though perhaps Dr. Tille underestimates the religious feeling that is often joined to the human sentiment.
The fifteenth century was the great period for the Kindelwiegen, the time when it appears to have been practised in all the churches of Germany ; in the sixteenth it began to seem
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