Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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The reader who has had patience to persevere will by now h gained some idea of the manner in which Christina, is, and has been, kept throughout Europe. We have traced the evolution of the festival, seen it take its rise soon after the victory of the Catholic doctrine of Christ's person at Nicea, and spread from Rome to every quarter of the Empire, not as a folk-festival but as an ecclesiastical holy-day. We have seen the Church condemn with horror the relics of pagan feasts which clung round the same season of the year ; then, as time went on, we have found the two elements, pagan and Christian, mingling in some degree, the pagan losing most of its serious meaning, and continuing mainly as ritual performed for the sake of use and wont or as a jovial tradition, the Christian becoming humanized, the skeleton of dogma clothed with warm flesh and blood.
We have considered, as represented in poetry and liturgy, the strictly ecclesiastical festival, the commemoration of the Nati as the beginning of man's redemption. We have seen how in the carols, the cult of the presepio, and the religious drama, the Birth of the King of Glory in the stable at midwinter has pre­sented itself in concrete form to the popular mind, calling up a host of human emotions, a crowd of quaint and beautiful fancies. Lastly we have noted the survival, in the most varied de jreesol transformation, of things which are alien to Christianity and in some cases seem to go back to very primitive stages of thou and feeling. An antique reverence for the plant-world may lie, as we have seen, beneath the familiar institution ot the Christmas-tree, some sort of animal-worship may be at the bottom ot the
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