Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search



Share page  


Previous Contents Next

PAGAN SURVIVALS
Christ Himself, and how he comes now vested as a bishop, now as a masked and shaggy figure. The names and attributes of the Christmas and Advent visitors are rather confused, but on the whole it may be said that in Protestant north Germany the epis­copal St. Nicholas and his Eve have been replaced by Christmas Eve and the Christ Child, while the name Klas has become attached to various unsaintly forms appearing at or shortly before Christmas.
We can trace a deliberate substitution of the Christ Child for St. Nicholas as the bringer of gifts. In the early seventeenth century a Protestant pastor is found complaining that parents put presents in their children's beds and tell them that St. Nicholas has brought them. " This," he says, " is a bad custom, because it points children to the saint, while yet we know that not St. Nicholas but the holy Christ Child gives us all good things for body and soul, and He alone it is whom we ought to call upon." x
The ways in which the figure, or at all events the name, of Christ Himself, is introduced into German Christmas customs, are often surprising. The Christ Child, " Christkind," so familiar to German children, has now become a sort of mythical figure, a product of sentiment and imagination working so freely .as almost to forget the sacred character of the original. Christ-kind bears little resemblance to the Infant of Bethlehem ; he is quite a tall child, and is often represented by a girl dressed in white, with long fair hair. He hovers, indeed, between the character of the Divine Infant and that of an angel, and is regarded more as a kind of good fairy than as anything else.
In Alsace the girl who represents Christkind has her face " made up " with flour, wears a crown of gold paper with lighted candles in it—a parallel to the headgear of the Swedish Lussi ; in one hand she holds a silver bell, in the other, a basket of sweet­meats. She is followed by the terrible Hans Trapp, dressed in a bearskin, with blackened face, long beard, and threatening rod. He " goes for " the naughty children, who are only saved by the intercession of Christkind.2
In the Mittelmark the name of de hele (holy) Christ is strangely
230
Previous Contents Next