Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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FEASTING CUSTOMS
special kinds of fish on Christmas Eve. In Saxony and Thur-ingia herring salad is eaten—he who bakes it will have money all the year—and in many parts of Germany and also in Styria carp is then consumed.22 Round Erc6 in Brittany the family dish is cod.23 In Italy the cenone or great supper held on Christmas Eve has fish for its animal basis, and stewed eels arc particularly popular. It is to be remembered that in Catholic countries the Vigil of the Nativity is a fast, and meat is not allowed upon it; this alone would account for the prominence of fish on Christmas Eve.
We have already come across peculiar cakes eaten at various pre-Christmas festivals ; at Christmas itself special kinds of bread, pastry, and cakes abound on the Continent, and in some cases at least mayliave a religious origin.
In France various sorts of cakes and loaves are known at the season of Noel. In Berry on Christmas morning loaves called cornaboeux, made in the shape of horns or a crescent, are dis­tributed to the poor. In Lorraine people give one another cognes or cogneux, a kind of pastry in the shape of two crescents back to back, or else long and narrow in form and with a crescent at either end. In some parts of France the cornaboeux are known as holais, and ploughmen give to the poor as many of these loaves as they possess oxen and horses.24 These horns may be substitutes for a sacrifice of oxen.
Sometimes the French Christmas cakes have the form of complete oxen or horses—such were the thin unleavened cakes sold in the early nineteenth century at La Chatre (Indre). In the neighbourhood of Chartres there are cochenilles and coquelins in animal and human shapes. Little cakes called naulets are sold by French bakers, and actually represent the Holy Child. With them may be compared the coignoles of French Flanders, cakes of oblong form adorned with the figure of the infant Jesus in sugar.25 Sometimes the Christmas loaf or cake in France has healing properties ; a certain kind of cake in Berry and Limousin is kept all through the year, and a piece eaten in sickness has marvellous powers.26
Cortet gives an extraordinary account of a French custom
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