Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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Origins of the Mediaeval Drama—Dramatic Tendencies in the Liturgy—Latin Liturgical Plays—The Drama becomes Laicized—Characteristics of the Popular Drama—The Nativity in the English Miracle Cycles—Christmas Mysteries in France—Later French Survivals of Christmas Drama — German Christmas Plays—Mediaeval Italian Plays and Pageants—Spanish Nativity Plays—Modern Survivals in Various Countries—The Star-singers, &c.
In this chapter the Christian side only of the Christmas drama will be treated. Much folk-drama of pagan origin has gathered round the festival, but this we shall study in our Second Part. Our subject here is the dramatic representation of the story of the Nativity and the events immediately connected with it. The Christmas drama has passed through the same stages as the poetry of the Nativity. There is first a monastic and hieratic stage, when the drama is but an expansion of the liturgy, a piece of ceremonial performed by clerics with little attempt at veri­similitude and with Latin words drawn mainly from the Bible or the offices of the Church. Then, as the laity come to take a more personal interest in Christianity, we find fancy beginning to play around the subject, bringing out its human pathos and charm, until, after a transitional stage, the drama leaves the sanctuary, passes from Latin to the vulgar tongue, is played by lay performers in the streets and squares of the city, and, while its framework remains religious, takes into itself episodes of a more or less secular character. The Latin liturgical plays are to the "miracles" and "mysteries" of the later Middle Ages as a Romanesque church, solemn, oppressive, hieratic, to
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