Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
ritual of the Christmas-tree. But more powerful than religious influences, in rooting out the old customs, have been modern education and the growth of modern industry, breaking up the old traditional country life, and putting in its place the mobile, restless life of the great town. Many of the customs we shall have to consider belong essentially to the country, and have no relation to the life of the modern city. When communal in their character, a man could not perform them in separation from his rustic neighbours. Practices domestic in their purpose may indeed be transferred to the modern city, but it is the experience of folk-lorists that they seldom descend to the second generation.
It is in regions like Bavaria, Tyrol, Styria, or the Slav parts of the Austrian Empire, or Roumania and Servia, that the richest store of festival customs is to be found nowadays. Here the old agri­cultural life has been less interfered with, and at the same time the Church, whether Roman or Greek, has succeeded in keeping modern ideas away from the people and in maintaining a popular piety that is largely polytheistic in its worship of the saints, and embodies a great amount of traditional paganism. In our half-suburbanized England but little now remains of these vestiges of primitive religion and magic whose interest and importance were only realized by students in the later nineteenth century, when the wave of " progress " was fast sweeping them away.
Old traditions have a way of turning up unexpectedly in remote corners, and it is hard to say for certain that any custom is altogether extinct ; every year, however, does its work of destruction, and it may well be that some of the practices here described in the present tense have passed into the Limbo of discarded things.
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