Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE CHRISTMAS-TREE
candles, calces and painted toys, you must associate so long as you live with Christmas in Germany." 2
Even in London one may get a glimpse of the Teutonic Christmas in the half-German streets round Fitzroy Square. They are bald and drab enough, but at Christmas here and there a window shines with a lighted tree, and the very prosaic Lutheran church in Cleveland Street has an unwonted sight to show—two great fir-trees decked with white candles, standing one on each side of the pulpit. The church of the German Catholics, too, St. Boniface's, Whitechapel, has in its sanctuary two Christmas-trees strangely gay with coloured glistening balls and long strands of gold and silver engehhaar. The candles are lit at Benediction during the festival, and between the shining trees the solemn ritual is performed by the priest and a crowd of serving boys in scarlet and white with tapers and incense.
There is a pretty story about the institution of the IVeihnachts-baum by Martin Luther : how, after wandering one Christmas Eve under the clear winter sky lit by a thousand stars, he set up for his children a tree with countless candles, an image of the starry heaven whence Christ came down. This, however, belongs to the region of legend ; the first historical mention of the Christmas-tree is found in the notes of a certain Strasburg citizen of unknown name, written in the year 1605. "At Christmas," he writes, " they set up fir-trees in the parlours at Strasburg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold-foil, sweets, &c." 3
We next meet with the tree in a hostile allusion by a distin­guished Strasburg theologian, Dr. Johann Konrad Dannhauer, Professor and Preacher at the Cathedral. In his book, "The Milk of the Catechism," published about the middle of the seventeenth century, he speaks of " the Christmas- or fir-tree, which people set up in their houses, hang with dolls and sweets, and afterwards shake and deflower." " Whence comes the custom," he says, " I know not ; it is child's play. ... Far better were it to point the children to the spiritual cedar-tree, Jesus Chnst."4
In neither of these references is there any mention of candles—
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