Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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St. Luke's words about the Bethlehem shepherds were true ot these French swains—they " returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen."
In German there remain very few Christmas plays earlier than the fifteenth century. Later periods, however, have produced a multitude, and dramatic performances at Christmas have continued down to quite modern times in German-speaking parts.
At Oberufer near Pressburg—a German Protestant village in Hungary—some fifty years ago, a Christmas play was performed under the direction of an old farmer, whose office as instructor had descended from father to son. The play took place at intervals of from three to ten years and was acted on all Sundays and festivals from Advent to the Epiphany. Great care was taken to ensure the strictest piety and morality in the actors, and no secular music was allowed in the place during the season for the performances. The practices began as early as October. On the first Sunday in Advent there was a solemn procession to the hall hired for the play. First went a man bearing a gigantic star—he was called the "Master Singer"—and another carrying a Christmas-tree decked with ribbons and apples ; then came all the actors, singing hymns. There was no scenery and no theatrical apparatus beyond a straw-seated chair and a wooden stool. When the first was used, the scene was understood to be Jerusalem, when the second, Bethlehem. The Christmas drama, immediately preceded by an Adam and Eve play, and succeeded by a Shrove Tuesday one, followed mediaeval lines, and included the wanderings of Joseph and Mary round the inns of Bethlehem, the angelic tidings to the shepherds, their visit to the manger, the adoration of the Three Kings, and various Herod scenes. Protestant influence was shown by the introduction of Luther's "Vom Himmel hoch," but the general character was very much that of the old mysteries, and the dialogue was full of quaint na'ivete.27
At Brixlegg, in Tyrol, as late as 1872 a long Christmas play was acted under Catholic auspices ; some of its dialogue was in
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