Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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CHRISTMAS EVE
them in return. Koly&da is the name for Christmas and tppean to be derived from Kalendae, which probably entered the Slave languages by way of Byzantium. The maiden is one ofthoie beings who, like the Italian Befana, have taken their names from the festival at which they appear.12
No time in all the Twelve Nights and Davs is so chai with the supernatural as Christmas Eve. Doubtless this is due to the fact that the Church has hallowed the night of December 24-5 above all others in the year. It was to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night that, according to the Third Evangelist, came the angelic message of the Birth, and in harmony with this is the unique Midnight Mass of the Roman Church, lending a peculiar sanctity to the hour of its celebration. And yet many of the beliefs associated with this night show a large admixture of paganism.
First, there is the idea that at midnight on Christmas Eve animals have the power of speech. This superstition exists in various parts of Europe, and no one can hear the beasts talk with impunity. The idea has given rise to some curious and rather grim tales. Here is one from Brittany :
" Once upon a time there was a woman who starved her cat and dog. At midnight on Christmas Eve she heard the dog say to the cat, ' It is quite time we lost our mistress ; she is a regular miser. To-night burglars are coming to steal her money ; and if she cries out they will break her head.' c 'Twill be a good deed,' the cat replied. The woman in terror got up to go to a neighbour's house ; as she went out the burglars opened the door, and when she shouted for help they broke her head." J3
Again a story is told of a farm servant in the German Alps who did not believe that the beasts could speak, and hid in a stable on Christmas Eve to learn what went on. At midnight he heard surprising things. "We shall have hard work to do this day week," said one horse. " Yes, the farmer's servant is heavy," answered the other. "And the way to the churchyard is long and steep," said the first. The servant was buried that day week.x4
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