Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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the Saviour and His angels.24 (We may compare with this Christian idea the Tyrolese custom of leaving some milk for the Christ Child and His Mother 2S at the hour of Midnight Mass, and a Breton practice of leaving food all through Christmas night in case the Virgin should come.26)
It is difficult to say how far the other supernatural beings—■ their name is legion—who in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland are believed to come out of their underground hiding-places during the long dark Christmas nights, were originally ghosts of the dead. Twenty years ago many students would have accounted for them all in this way, but the tendency now is strongly against the derivation of all supernatural beings from ancestor-worship. Elves, trolls, dwarfs, witches, and other uncanny folk—the beliefs about their Christmas doings are too many to be treated here; readers of Danish will find a long and very interesting chapter on this subject in Dr. Feilberg's " Jul." 27 I may mention just one familiar figure of the Scandinavian Yule, Tomte Gubbe, a sort of genius of the house corresponding very much to the " drudging goblin" of Milton's " L'Allegro," for whom the cream-bowl must be duly set. He may perhaps be the spirit of the founder of the family. At all events on Christmas Eve Yule porridge and new milk are set out for him, sometimes with other things, such as a suit of small clothes, spirits, or even tobacco. Thus must his goodwill be won for the coming year.28
In one part of Norway it used to be believed that on Christmas Eve, at rare intervals, the old Norse gods made war on Christ­ians, coming down from the mountains with great blasts of wind and wild shouts, and carrying off any human being who might be about. In one place the memory of such a visitation was preserved in the nineteenth century. The people were preparing for their festivities, when suddenly from the mountains came the warning sounds. " In a second the air became black, peals of thunder echoed among the hills, lightning danced about the buildings, and the inhabitants in the darkened rooms heard the clatter of hoofs and the weird shrieks of the hosts of the gods." 29
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