Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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This explanation will hardly hold water ; the many and various examples of the practice of whipping at Christmas collected by Mannhardt IQ show that it is not confined either to Innocents' Day or to children. Moreover it is often regarded not as a cruel infliction, but as a service for which return must be made in good things to eat.
In central and southern Germany the custom is called "peppering" {pfeffern) and also by other names. In the Orlagau the girls on St. Stephen's, and the boys on St. John's Day beat their parents and godparents with green fir-branches, while the menservants beat their masters with rosemary sticks, saying :
" Fresh green ! Long life ! Give me a bright thaler [or nuts, &c.]."
They are entertained with plum-loaf or gingerbreads and brandy. In the Saxon Erzgebirge the young fellows whip the women and girls on St. Stephen's Day, if possible while they are still in bed, with birch-rods, singing the while :
" Fresh green, fair and fine, Gingerbread and brandy-wine " ;
and on St. John's Day the women pay the men back. At several places in the Thuringian Forest children on Innocents' Day beat passers-by with birch-boughs, and get in return apples, nuts, and other dainties. Various other German examples of the same class of practice are given by Mannhardt.20
In France children who let themselves be caught in bed on the morning of Holy Innocents' came in for a whipping from their parents ; while in one province, Normandy, the early risers among the young people themselves gave the sluggards a beating. The practice even gave birth to a verb—innocenter.2I
There can be little doubt that the Innocents' Day beating is a survival of a pre-Christian custom. Similar ritual scourging is found in many countries at various seasons of the year, and is by no means confined to Europe.22 As now practised, it has
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