Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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A nineteenth-century Spanish survival of the "Stella" is described in Fernan Caballcro's sketch, "La Noche de Navidad."46 At the foot of the altar of the village church, according to this account, images of the Virgin and St. Joseph were placed, with the Holy Child between them, lying on straw. On either side knelt a small boy dressed as an angel. Solemnly there entered the church a number of men attired as shepherds, bearing their offerings to the Child ; afterwards they danced with slow and dignified movements before the altar. The shepherds were followed by the richest men of the village dressed as the Magi Kings, mounted on horseback, and followed by their train. Before them went a shining star. On reaching the church they dismounted ; the first, representing a majestic old man with white hair, offered incense to the Babe ; the others, Caspar and Melchior, myrrh and gold respectively. This was done on the feast of the Epiphany.
A remnant possibly of the " Stella" is to be found in a Christmas custom extremely widespread in Europe and surviving even in some Protestant lands—the carrying about of a star in memory of the Star of Bethlehem. It is generally borne by a company of boys, who sing some sort of carol, and expect a gift in return.
The practice is—or was—found as far north as Sweden. All through the Christmas season the " star youths" go about from house to house. Three are dressed up as the Magi Kings, a fourth carries on a stick a paper lantern in the form of a six-pointed star, made to revolve and lighted by candles. There are also a Judas, who bears the purse for the collection, and, occasionally, a King Herod. A doggerel rhyme is sung, telling the story of the Nativity and offering good wishes.47 In Norway and Denmark processions of a like character were formerly known.48
In Normandy at Christmas children used to go singing through the village streets, carrying a lantern of coloured paper on a long osier rod.49 At Pleudihen in Brittany three young men repre­senting the Magi sang carols in the cottages, dressed in their holiday clothes covered with
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