Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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with the antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gioriam plebis tuae Israel," the ceremony being thus brought Into coni tion with the "light to lighten the Gentiles" hymned by Symeon. Usener has however shown reason for thinking that the Candle­mas procession was not of spontaneous Christian growth, but was inspired by a desire to Christianize a Roman rite, the Amburbali, which took place at the same season and consisted of a procession round the city with lighted candles.63
The Candlemas customs of the sixteenth century are thus described by Naogeorgus :
" Then numbers great ot Tapers large, both men and women
beare To Church, being halowed there with pomp, and dreadful words
to heare. This done, eche man his Candell lightes, where chiefest seemeth
hee, Whose taper greatest may be seene, and fortunate to bee, Whose Candell burneth cleare and brighte ; a wondrous torce
and might Doth in these Candells lie, which if at any time they light, They sure beleve that neyther storme or tempest dare abide, Nor thunder in the skies be heard, nor any devils spide, Nor fearefull sprites that walke by night, nor hurts of frost or
haile." 64
Still, in many Roman Catholic regions, the candles blessed in church at the Purification are believed to have marvellous po* In Brittany, Franche-Comte, and elsewhere, they are preserved and lighted in time of storm or sickness.65 In Tyrol they are lighted on important family occasions such as christenings and funerals, as well as on the approach of a storm66 ; in Sicily in time of earthquake or when somebody is dying.67
In England some use of candles on this festival continued long after the Reformation. In 1628 the Bishop of Durham gave serious offence by sticking up wax candles in his cathedral at the Purification ; " the number of all the candles burnt that evening was two hundred and twenty, besides sixteen torches ; sixty of
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