Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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CHAPTER XI
THE CHRISTMAS-TREE, DECORATIONS,
AND GIFTS
The Christmas-tree a German Creation — Charm of the German Christmas—Early Christmas-trees—The Christmas Pyramid — Spread of the Tree in Modern Germany and other Countries—Origin of the Christmas-tree—Beliefs about Flowering Trees at Christmas—Evergreens at the Kalends—Non-German Parallel* to the Christmas-tree—Christmas Decorations connected with Ancient Kalends Customs—Sacredness of Hollj and Mistletoe—Floors strewn with Straw— Christmas and New Year Gifts, their Connection with the Roman Strer.ae and St. Nicholas—Present-giving in Various Countries—Christmas Cards.
The Christmas-tree
The most widespread, and to children the most delightful, of all festal institutions is the Christmas-tree. Its picturesqueness and gay charm have made it spread rapidly all over Europe without roots in national tradition, for, as most people know, it is a German creation, and even in Germany it attained its present immense popularity only in the nineteenth century. To Germany, of course, one should go to see the tree in all its glory. Many people, indeed, maintain that no other Christmas can com­pare with the German Weihnacht. " It is," writes Miss I. A. R. Wylie, " that childish, open-hearted simplicity which, so it seems to me, makes Christmas essentially German, or at any rate explains why it is that nowhere else in the world does it find so pure an expression. The German is himself simple, warm-hearted, unpretentious, with something at the bottom of him which is child-• like in the best sense. He is the last ' Naturmensch ' in civiliza­tion." Christmas suits him "as well as a play suits an actor for whose character and temperament it has been especially written." *
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