Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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A curious traditional drama, in which pagan elements seem to have mingled with the Herod story, is still performed by the Roumanians during the Christmas festival. It is called in Wallachia "Vicleim" (from Bethlehem), in Moldavia and Transylvania " Irozi" (plural from llW= Herod). At least ten persons figure in it : " Emperor " Herod, an old grumbling monarch who speaks in harsh tones to his followers ; an officer and two soldiers in Roman attire ; the three Magi, in Oriental garb, a child, and "two comical figures—the pa lata (the clown) and the mosul, or old man, the former in harlequin accoutrement, the latter with a mask on his face, a long beard, a hunch on his back, and dressed in a sheepskin with the wool on the outside. The plot of the play is quite simple. The officer brings the news that three strange men have been caught, going to Bethle­hem to adore the new-born Messiah ; Herod orders them to be shown in : they enter singing in a choir. Long dialogues ensue between them and Herod, who at last orders them to be taken to prison. But then they address the Heavenly Father, and shout imprecations on Herod, invoking celestial punishment on him, at which unaccountable noises are heard, seeming to announce the fulfilment of the curse. Herod falters, begs the Wise Men's forgiveness, putting ofFhis anger till more opportune times. The Wise Men retire. . . . Then a child is introduced, who goes on his knees before Herod, with his hands on his breast, ask­ing pity. He gives clever answers to various questions and foretells the Christ's future career, at which Herod stabs him. The whole troupe now strikes up a tune of reproach to Herod, who falls on his knees in deep repentance." The play is some­times performed by puppets instead of living actors.S6
Christmas plays performed by puppets are found in other countries too. In Poland " during the week between Christmas and New Year is shown the "Jaselki or manger, a travelling series of scenes from the life of Christ or even of modern peasants, a small travelling puppet-theatre, gorgeous with tinsel and candles, and something like our c Punch and Judy' show. The market­place of Cracow, especially at night, is a very pretty spectacle, its sidewalks all lined with these glittering Jaselki." 57 In Madrid
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