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Christmas Eve

时间:2011-12-22 15:44 作者: 点击:

摘要:Traditionally, the celebrations of Christmas Day began with midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This mass was always special, even for people who usually found going to church every Sunday something of a chore. The Church made little attempt t

 Traditionally, the celebrations of Christmas Day began with midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This mass was always special, even for people who usually found going to church every Sunday something of a chore. The Church made little attempt to exclude the pagan spirit of Christmas fun from the Christmas midnight mass and people would be marvelling at the decorations, admiring each other’s new clothes and calling out ‘Happy Christmas!’ across the aisle.

Superstitions were theoretically frowned upon by the Church as being beliefs arising from ignorance. However, in the Middle Ages, when so much of nature seemed inexplicable even to the Church, many simple superstitions were permitted as long as they did not conflict with the Church’s teachings. There were a whole host of superstitions about midnight on Christmas Eve.

People thought that animals celebrated the arrival of Christ and that the cows in the cattle-sheds and the deer in the forests went down on their knees at midnight. Thomas Hardy wrote a poem about this:

 
 

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock
Now they are all on their knees
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in this hearthside ease.
 We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their straw pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
 
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve
Come, see the oxen kneel!
 In the lonely barton by wonder coomb
Our children used to know,
I should go with him in the gloom
Hoping it might be so.
 

 

Many people used to believe that honey bees celebrated the Nativity by waking up from their winter sleep and humming a song of praise to Christ. Unfortunately, only those who had led a blameless life could hope to hear those beatitudes. Others believed that animals were able to speak like humans on Christmas Eve. Not to be outdone by the animal kingdom, some believed that the trees and plants along the banks of the River Jordan bowed in reverence on the Eve of Christmas.

Also on Christmas Eve, ghosts, witches and other evil creatures of the night were said to have their powers suspended. Shakespeare must have been aware of this when he wrote:

 
 

Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our saviour’s birth is celebrated
The bird of dawning singeth all night long
And then they say no spirit dare walk abroad
The nights are wholesome then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm –
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.

Hamlet

 
 

It was also a lucky time for good spirits. The Irish believed that the gates of Paradise were opened on the hour of midnight, so that if anyone should die at this time they would go straight up into heaven.

There were two sinister traditions too. If, when all were seated round the fire, one shadow on the wall behind was headless, then the person who cast the shadow would be dead before the end of the year. Someone would also die if a hoop fell off a cask on Christmas Eve.
 

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