Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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given to a skin- or straw-clad man, elsewhere called Knccht Ruprecht, Klas,or Joseph.3 In the Ruppin district a man dm up in white with ribbons, carries a large pouch, and is called Christmann or Christpuppe. He is accompanied by a Schimmtlrtiter and by other fellows who are attired as women, have blackened faces, and are named Feien (we may see in them a likeness to the Kalends maskers condemned by the early Church). The pro­cession goes round from house to house. The Schimmtlreittr as he enters has to jump over a chair ; thi# done, the Christpuppe is admitted. The girls present begin to sing, and the Schimmel­reiter dances with one of them. Meanwhile the Christpuppe makes the children repeat some verse of Scripture or a hymn ; if they know it well, he rewards them with gingerbreads from his wallet ; if not, he beats them with a bundle filled with ashes. Then both he and the Schimmelreiter dance and pass on. Only when they are gone are the Feien allowed to enter ; they jump wildly about and frighten the children.4
Knecht Ruprecht, to whom allusion has already been made, is a prominent figure in the German Christmas. On Christmas Eve in the north he goes about clad in skins or straw and examines children ; if they can say their prayers perfectly he rewards them with apples, nuts and gingerbreads; if not, he punishes them. In the Mittelmark, as we have seen, a personage corresponding to him is sometimes called " the holy Christ" ; in Mecklenburg he is "ru Klas" (rough Nicholas—note his identi­fication with the saint) ; in Brunswick, Hanover, and Holstcin "Klas," "Klawes," "Klas Bur" and " Bullcrklas" ; and in Silesia " Joseph." Sometimes he wears bells and carries a long staff with a bag of ashes at the end —hence the name " Aschenklas " occasionally given to him.5 An ingenious theory connects this aspect of him with the polaznik of the Slavs, who on Christmas Day in Crivoscian farms goes to the hearth, takes up the ashes of the Yule log and dashes them against the cauldron-hook above so that sparks fly (see Chapter X.).6 As for the name "Ruprecht" the older mythologists interpreted it as meaning "shining with glory," hruodperaht, and identified its owner with the god Woden.7 Dr. Tille, however, regards him
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