Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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HOLY INNOCENTS' DAY
ness. In Styria St. John's wine is said to keep the body sound and healthy, and on his day even babes in the cradle are made to join in the family drinking.14
It appears that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there was a great drinking on St. John's Day of ordinary, as well .is i secrated, wine, often to excess, and scholars of that time seriously believed that Weihnacht, the German name for Christmas, should properly be spelt WeinnachtJS The Johannissegen, or Johanms-minne as it was sometimes called, seems, all things considered, to be a survival of an old wine sacrifice like the Mariinumnne. That it does not owe its origin to the legend about the cup of poison drunk by St. John is shown by the fact that a similar custom was in old times practised in Germany and Sweden on St. Stephen's Dav.i6
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Holy Innocents' Day.
Holy Innocents' Day or Childermas, whether or not because of Herod's massacre, was formerly peculiarly unlucky ; it was a day upon which no one, if he could possibly avoid it, should begin any piece of work. It is said of that superstitious monarch, Louis XL of France, that he would never do any business on that day, and of our own Edward IV. that his coronation was post­poned, because the date originally fixed was Childermas. In Cornwall no housewife would scour or scrub on Childermas, ami in Northamptonshire it was considered very unlucky to begin any undertaking or even to do washing throughout the year on the Aw of the week on which the feast fell. Childermas was there called Dyzemas and a saying ran : "What is begun on Dyzemas Day will never be finished." In Ireland it was called " the cross day of the year," and it was said that anything then begun must have an unlucky ending.J7
In folk-ritual the day is remarkable for its association with whipping customs. The seventeenth-century writer Gregonu mentions a custom of whipping up children on Innocents' Da) in the morning, and explains its purpose as being that the memory of Herod's " murther might stick the closer ; and, in a moderate proportion, to act over the crueltie again in kind."
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