Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
at the Epiphany a puppet-play was common, in which the events of the Nativity and the Infancy were mimed by wooden figures,58 and in Provence, in the mid-nineteenth century, the Christmas scenes were represented in the same way.59
Last may be mentioned a curious Mexican mixture of religion and amusement, a sort of drama called the " Posadas," described by Madame Calderon de la Barca in her " Life in Mexico" (1843).60 The custom was based upon the wanderings of the Virgin and St. Joseph in Bethlehem in search of repose. For eight days these wanderings of the holy pair to the different posadas were represented. On Christmas Eve, says the narrator, "a lighted candle was put into the hand of each lady [this was at a sort of party], and a procession was formed, two by two, which marched all through the house . . . the whole party singing the Litanies. . . . A group of little children, dressed as angels, joined the procession. ... At last the procession drew up before a door, and a shower of fireworks was sent flying over our heads, I suppose to represent the descent of the angels ; for a group of ladies appeared, dressed to represent the shepherds. . . . Then voices, supposed to be those of Mary and Joseph, struck up a hymn, in which they begged for admittance, saying that the night was cold and dark, that the wind blew hard, and that they prayed for a night's shelter. A chorus of voices from within refused admittance. Again those without entreated shelter, and at length declared that she at the door, who thus wandered in the night, and had not where to lay her head, was the Queen of Heaven ! At this name the doors were thrown wide open, and the Holy Family entered singing. The scene within was very pretty : a nacimiento. . . . One of the angels held a waxen baby in her arms. ... A padre took the baby from the angel and placed it in the cradle, and the posada was completed. We then returned to the drawing-room—angels, shepherds, and all, and danced till supper-time." 6o Here the religious drama has sunk to little more than a " Society " game.
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