Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
Brittany the tison is a protection against lightning and its ashes are put in wells to keep the water good.J4
In northern Italy also the ceppo or log is (or was) known—the Piedmontese call it sue—and in Tuscany Christmas is called after it Festa di Ceppo. In the Val di Chiana on Christmas Eve the family gathers, a great log is set on the fire, the children are blindfolded and have to beat it with tongs, and an Ave Maria del Ceppo is sung,S Under the name in Lombardy of zocco, in Tus­cany of cioccoy di Natale, the Yule log was in olden times common in Italian cities ; the custom can there be traced back to the eleventh century. A little book probably printed in Milan at the end of the fifteenth century gives minute particulars of the ritual observed, and we learn that on Christmas Eve the father, or the head of the household, used to call all the family together and with great devotion, in the name of the Holy Trinity, take the log and place it on the fire. Juniper was put under it, and on the top money was placed, afterwards to be given to the servants. Wine in abundance was poured three times on the fire when the head of the house had drunk and given drink to all present. It was an old Italian custom to preserve the ashes of the zocco as a protection against hail. A modern superstition is to keep some splinters of the wood and burn them in the fires made for the benefit of silkworms ; so burnt, they are supposed to keep ills away from the creatures.16
In many parts of Germany Yule log customs can be traced. In Hesse and Westphalia, for instance, it was the custom on Christ­mas Eve or Day to lay a large block of wood on the fire and, as soon as it was charred a little, to take it off and preserve it. When a storm threatened, it was kindled again as a protection against lightning. It was called the Christbrandw In Thuringia a Christklotz (Christ log) is put on the fire before people go to bed, so that it may burn all through the night. Its remains are kept to protect the house from fire and ill-luck. In parts of Thuringia and in Mecklenburg, Pomerania, East Prussia, Saxony, and Bohemia, the fire is kept up all night on Christmas or New Year's Eve, and the ashes are used to rid cattle of vermin and protect plants and fruit-trees from insects, while in the country between the Sieg
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