Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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NEW YEAR'S DAY
Like pear-trees
In springtime,
Like wealthy autumn,
Of all things plentiful."
Generally this greeting is from the young to the old or from the poor to the rich, and a present in return is expected.40
In Athens models of war-ships are carried round by waits, who make a collection of money in them. "St. Basil's ships" they are called, and they are supposed to represent the vessel on which St. Basil, whose feast is kept on January 1, sailed from Caesarea.11 It is probable that this is but a Christian gloss on a pa custom. Possibly there may be here a survival of an old Greek practice of bearing a ship in procession in honour of Dionysus,-*2 but it is to be noted that similar observances are found at various seasons in countries like Germany and Belgium where no Greek influence can be traced. The custom is widespread, and it has been suggested by Mannhardt that it was originally intended either to promote the success of navigation or to carry evil spirits out to sea.43
It is interesting, lastly, to read a mediaeval account of a New Year quete in Rome. "The following," says the writer, "are common Roman sports at the Kalends of January. On the Eve of the Kalends at a late hour boys arise and carry a shield. One of them wears a mask ; they whistle and beat a drum, they go round to the houses, they surround the shield, the drum sounds, and the masked figure whistles. This playing ended, they receive a present from the master of the house, whatever he thinks fit to give. So they do at every house. On that day they eat all kinds of vegetables. And in the morning two of the boys arise, take olive-branches and salt, enter into the houses, and salute the master with the words, 'Joy and gladness be in the house, so many sons, so many little pigs, so many lambs,' and they wish him all good things. And before the sun rises they eat either a piece of honeycomb or something sweet, that the whole year may pass sweetly, without strife and great trouble." «
Various methods of peering into the future, more or less like
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