Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search



Share page  


Previous Contents Next

PAGAN SURVIVALS
connected with eating and drinking. At Mouthe (Doubs) there used to be brought to the church at Christmas pies, cakes, and other eatables, and wine of the best. They were called the " De fructu," and when at Vespers the verse " De fructu ventris tui ponam super sedem tuam " was reached, all the congregation made a rush for these refreshments, contended for them, and carried them off with singing and shouting.27
The most remarkable of Christmas cakes or loaves is the Swedish and Danish " Yule Boar," a loaf in the form of a boar-pig, which stands on the table throughout the festal season. It is often made from the corn of the last sheaf of the harvest, and in it Dr. Frazer finds a clear expression of the idea of the corn-spirit as embodied in pig form. " Often it is kept till sowing-time in spring, when part of it is mixed with the seed corn and part given to the ploughman and plough-horses or plough-oxen to eat, in the expectation of a good harvest." In some parts of the Esthonian island of Oesel the cake has not the form of a boar, but bears the same name, and on New Year's Day is given to the cattle. In other parts of the island the " Yule Boar" is actually a little pig, roasted on Christmas Eve and set up on the table.28
In Germany, besides stollen—a sort of plum-loaf—biscuits, often of animal or human shape, are very conspicuous on Christmas Eve. Any one who has witnessed a German Christmas will remember the extraordinary variety of them, lebkuchen, pfefferniisse, printen, spekulatius biscuits, &c. In Berlin a great pile of biscuits heaped up on your plate is an important part of the Christmas Eve supper. These of course are nowadays mere luxuries, but they may well have had some sort of sacrificial origin. An admirable and exhaustive study of Teutonic Christmas cakes and biscuits has been made, with infinite pains, by an Austrian professor, Dr. Hofler, who reproduces some curious old biscuits, stamped with highly artistic patterns, preserved in museums.29
Among unsophisticated German peasants there is a belief in magical powers possessed by bread baked at Christmas, particularly when moistened by Christmas dew. (This dew is held to be peculiarly sacred, perhaps on account of the words " Rorate, coeli,
288
Previous Contents Next