Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
coming. Here, perhaps, some devil-scaring rite, resembling those described above, has been half-Christianized.28
In Provence, too, there was a custom of going to meet the Magi. In a charming chapter of his Memoirs Mistral tells us how on Epiphany Eve all the children of his countryside used to go out to meet the Kings, bearing cakes for the Magi, dried figs for their pages, and handfuls of hay for their horses. In the glory and colour of the sunset young Mistral thought he saw the splendid train ; but soon the gorgeous vision died away, and the children stood gaping alone on the darkening highway—the Kings had passed behind the mountain. After supper the little ones hurried to church, and there in the Chapel of the Nativity beheld the Kings in adoration before the Crib.29
At Trest not only did the young people carry baskets ot dried fruit, but there were three men dressed as Magi to receive the offerings and accept compliments addressed to them by an orator. In return they presented him with a purse full of counters, upon which he rushed off with the treasure and was pursued by the others in a sort of dance.3° Here again the Magi are evidently mixed up with something that has no relation to Christianity.
We noted in Chapter IV. the elaborate ceremonies connected in Greece with the Blessing of the Waters at the Epiphany, and the custom of diving for a cross. It would seem, as was pointed out, that the latter is an ecclesiastically sanctioned form of a folk-ceremony. This is found in a purer state in Macedonia, where, after Matins on the Epiphany, it is the custom to thrust some one into water, be it sea or river, pond or well. On emerging he has to sprinkle the bystanders.31 The rite may be compared with the drenchings of human beings in order to produce rain described by Dr. Frazer in "The Magic Art."32
Another Greek custom combines the purifying powers or Epiphany water with the fertilizing influences of the Christmas log—round Mount Olympos ashes are taken from the hearth where a cedar log has been burning since Christmas, and are baptized in the blessed water of the river. They are then borne
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