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Christmas in Ritual and Tradition

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Author Topic: Christmas in Ritual and Tradition  (Read 5483 times)
Erika Zimney
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« Reply #15 on: December 25, 2008, 10:45:25 pm »

In a fourteenth-century Life of the mystic Heinrich Suso it is told how one day angels came to him to comfort him in his sufferings, how they took him by the hand and led him to dance, while one began a glad song of the child Jesus, “In dulci jubilo.” To the fourteenth century, then, dates back that most delightful of German carols, with its interwoven lines of Latin. I may quote the fine Scots translation in the “Godlie and Spirituall Sangis” of 1567:—

“In dulci Jubilo, Now lat us sing with myrth and jo


Our hartis consolatioun lyis in praesepio,


And schynis as the Sone, Matris in gremio,


Alpha es et O, Alpha es et O.


O Jesu parvule! I thrist sore efter thé,p. 45


Confort my hart and mynde, O puer optime,


God of all grace sa kynde, et princeps gloriae


Trahe me post te, Trahe me post te.


Ubi sunt gaudia, in ony place bot thair,


Quhair that the Angellis sing Nova cantica,


Bot and the bellis ring in regis curia,


God gif I war thair, God gif I war thair.” 2-21


The music of “In dulci jubilo” 19 has, with all its religious feeling, something of the nature of a dance, and unites in a strange fashion solemnity, playfulness, and ecstatic delight. No other air, perhaps, shows so perfectly the reverent gaiety of the carol spirit.

The fifteenth century produced a realistic type of German carol. Here is the beginning of one such:—

“Da Jesu Krist geboren wart,


do was es kalt;


in ain klaines kripplein


er geleget wart.


Da stunt ain esel und ain rint,


die atmizten über das hailig kint


gar unverborgen.


Der ain raines herze hat, der darf nit sorgen.” 20 2-22


It goes on to tell in naïve language the story of the wanderings of the Holy Family during the Flight into Egypt.

This carol type lasted, and continued to develop, in Austria and the Catholic parts of Germany through the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, and even in the nineteenth. In Carinthia in the early nineteenth century, almost every parish had its local poet, who added new songs to the old treasury. 2-23 Particularly popular were the Hirtenlieder or shepherd songs, in which the peasant worshippers joined themselves to the shepherds of Bethlehem, and sought to share their devout p. 46 emotions. Often these carols are of the most rustic character and in the broadest dialect. They breathe forth a great kindliness and homeliness, and one could fill pages with quotations. Two more short extracts must, however, suffice to show their quality.

How warm and hearty is their feeling for the Child:—

“Du herzliabste Muater, gib Acht auf dös Kind,


Es is ja gar frostig, thuas einfatschen gschwind.


Und du alter Voda, decks Kindlein schen zua,


Sonst hats von der Kölden und Winden kan Ruah.


Hiazt nemen mir Urlaub, o gettliches Kind,


Thua unser gedenken, verzeich unser Sünd.


Es freut uns von Herzen dass d'ankomen bist;


Es hätt uns ja niemand zu helfen gewist.” 21 2-24

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