Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
must remember the difference between its climate and that of Central Europe. Mid-November would here not be a date beyond which pasturing was impossible, and thus the slaughter and feast held then by Angles and Saxons in their old German home would tend to be delayed.32
Christmas, as will be gathered from the foregoing, cannot on its pagan side be separated from the folk-feasts of November and December. The meaning of the term will therefore here be so extended as to cover the whole period between All Saints' Day and Epiphany. That this is not too violent a proceeding will be seen later on.
For the purposes of this book it seems best to treat the winter festivals calendarially, so to speak : to start at the beginning of November, and show them in procession, suggesting, as far as may be, the probable origins of the customs observed. Thus we may avoid the dismemberment caused by taking out certain practices from various festivals and grouping them under their probable origins, a method which would, moreover, be perilous in view of the very conjectural nature of the theories offered.
Before we pass to our procession of festivals, something must be said about the general nature and rationale of the customs associ­ated with them. For convenience these customs may be divided into three groups :—
I. Sacrificial or Sacramental 'Practices.
II. Customs connected with the Cult of the Dead and the Family Hearth. III. Omens and Charms for the New Tear.
Though these three classes overlap and it is sometimes difficult to place a given practice exclusively in one of them, they will form a useful framework for a brief account of the primitive ritual which survives at the winter festivals.
I. Sacrificial and Sacramental Practices. To most people, probably, the word " sacrifice " suggests an offering, something presented to a divinity in order to obtain his favour. Such seems to have been the meaning generally given to
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