Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
In Russia, too, mummers used to go about at Christmastide, visiting houses, dancing, and performing all kinds of antics. "Prominent parts were always played by human representatives of a goat and a bear. Some of the party would be disguised as 4 Lazaruses,' that is, as blind beggars." A certain number of the mummers were generally supposed to play the part of thieves anxious to break in.J7 Readers of Tolstoy's " War and Peace " may remember a description of some such maskings in the year 1810.
The Feast of Fools.
So far, in this Second Part, we have been considering customs practised chiefly in houses, streets, and fields. We must now turn to certain festivities following hard upon Christmas Day, which, though pagan in origin and sometimes even blasphemous, found their way in the Middle Ages within the walls of the church.
Shortly after Christmas a group of tripudia or revels was held by the various inferior clergy and ministrants of cathedrals and other churches. These festivals, of which the best known are the Feast of Fools and the Boy Bishop ceremonies, have been so fully described by other writers, and my space here is so limited, that I need but treat them in outline, and for detail refer the reader to such admirable accounts as are to be found in Chapters XIII., XIV., and XV. of Mr. Chambers's « The Mediaeval Stage." &
Johannes Belethus, Rector of Theology at Paris towards the end of the twelfth century, speaks of four tripudia held after Christmas :—those of the deacons on St. Stephen's Day, the priests on St. John's, the choir-boys on Holy Innocents', and the sub-deacons on the Circumcision, the Epiphany, or the Octave of the Epiphany. The feast of subdeacons, says Belethus, " we call that of fools." It is this feast which, though not apparently the earliest in origin of the four, was the most riotous and disorderly, and shows most clearly its pagan character. Belethus' mention of it is the first clear notice, though disorderly revels of the same kind seem to have existed at Constantinople as early as the ninth century. At first confined to the subdeacons, the Feast of Fools became in its later developments a festival not only of that order but of the
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