Merry Christmas







Many things attend the feast.

The Second Council of Tours... proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the "twelve days" from Christmas to Epiphany, and the duty of Advent fast; that of Agde... orders a universal communion, and that of Braga (563) forbids fasting on Christmas Day. Popular merry-making, however, so increased that the "Laws of King Cnut", fabricated c. 1110, order a fast from Christmas to Epiphany....

Only with great caution should the mysterious benefactor of Christmas night — Knecht Ruprecht, Pelzmärtel on a wooden horse, St. Martin on a white charger, St. Nicholas and his "reformed" equivalent, Father Christmas — be ascribed to the stepping of a saint into the shoes of Woden, who, with his wife Berchta, descended on the nights between 25 December and 6 January, on a white horse to bless earth and men. Fires and blazing wheels starred the hills, houses were adorned, trials suspended and feasts celebrated.... Knecht Ruprecht, at any rate (first found in a mystery of 1668 and condemned in 1680 as a devil) was only a servant of the Holy Child.


The rest of the history is just as interesting: mystery plays and carols, feasts and fires. Through it all, in every generation, we struggle to remember what it was really all about. Sometimes, some of those artists and customs help us see.

8 comments:

Texan99 said...

I'm glad to hear of the prohibition on fasting on Christmas day.

We've just arrived back home after a 24-hour turnaround. We'll actually get to spend much of Christmas day in our own home, a treat for us. Santa brought me a dulcimer, and I'd like to get started on it right away.

OldSoldier54 said...

Merry Christmas, Brother!

Grim said...

Merry Christmas!

Tex, do you mean a hammer dulcimer or a lap dulcimer?

Texan99 said...

A mountain (lap) dulcimer, very simple. I'm a rank beginner.

Grim said...

You'll have to post videos as you get some confidence.

Grim said...

I'll save quoting "Kubla Khan" at you for when you post the videos. :)

Texan99 said...

I'm just now learning how to make basic chords. But something I've been having fun with lately is recording four separate tracks on my "Garage Band" software and producing all four vocal parts of Shape Note songs. It seems like cheating not to put together a group of four singers, but I have such a hard time finding anyone who will learn to sing parts and who likes the music I like. It's also a little tricky sining all four parts with my limited range, but I can always transpose the bass parts up an octave and pipe out the treble parts in falsetto.

Gringo said...

I especially liked the harmonies of The Boar's Head Carol.