Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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CHAPTER XIV
ST. STEPHEN'S, ST. JOHN'S, AND HOLY INNOCENTS' DAYS
Horse Customs of St. Stephen's Day—The Swedish St. Stephen—St. John's Wine-Childermas and its Beatings.
The three saints' days immediately following Christmas—St. Stephen's (December 26), St. John the Evangelist's (December 27), and the Holy Innocents' (December 28)—have still various folk-customs associated with them, in some cases purely secular, in others hallowed by the Church.
St. Stephen's Day.
In Tyrolese churches early in the morning of St. Stephen's Day there takes place a consecration of water and of salt brought by the people. The water is used by the peasants to sprinkle food, barns, and fields in order to avert the influence of witches and l\ il spirits, and bread soaked in it is given to the cattle when they are driven out to pasture on Whit Monday. The salt, too, is given to the beasts, and the peasants themselves partake of it before any important journey like a pilgrimage. Moreover when a storm is threatening some is thrown into the fire as a protection against hail.1
The most striking thing about St. Stephen's Day, however, is its connection with horses. St. Stephen is their patron ; in En ' land in former times they were bled on his festival in the belie! that it would benefit them,2 and the custom is still continued in some parts of Austria.3 In Tyrol it is the custom not only to
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