Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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to the pagan monsters already described. In Tyrol she pUyi more graceful part : she brings presents for girls, an office which St. Nicholas is there supposed to perform for boys
In Lower Austria St. Lucia's Eve is a time when special dbu from witchcraft is feared and must be averted by prayer ami incense. A procession is made through each house to cense- every room. On this evening, too, girls are afraid to spin lest in the morning they should find their distaffs twisted, the threads broken, and the yarn in confusion. (We shall meet with like superstitions during the Twelve Nights.) At midnight the girls practise a strange ceremony: they go to a willow-bordered brook, cut the bark of a tree partly away, without detaching it, make with a knife a cross on the inner side of the cut bark, moisten it with water, and carefully close up the opening. On New Year's Day the cutting is opened, and the future is augured from the marking found. The lads, on the other hand, look out at midnight for a mysterious light, the Luzieschein, the forms of which indicate coming events.56
In Denmark, too, St. Lucia's Eve is a time for seeing the future. Here is a prayer of Danish maids : " Sweet St. Lucy let me know : whose cloth I shall lay, whose bed I shall make, whose child I shall bear, whose darling I shall be, whose arms I shall sleep in." 57
St. Thomas's Day.
Many and various are the customs and beliefs associated with the feast of St. Thomas (December 21). In Denmark it was formerly a great children's day, unique in the year, and rather resembling the mediaeval Boy Bishop festival. It was the breaking-up day for schools ; the children used to bring their master an offering of candles and money, and in return he ga\ c-them a feast. In some places it had an even more delightful side: for this one day in the year the children were allowed the mastery in the school. Testimonials to their scholarship and industry were made out, and elaborate titles were added to their names, as exalted sometimes as " Pope," " Emperor," or "Empress." Poor children used to go about showing these
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