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Christmas in Ritual and Tradition

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Erika Zimney
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« Reply #15 on: December 25, 2008, 10:51:07 pm »

p. 68 With this lullaby may be compared a singularly lovely and quite untranslatable Latin cradle-song of unknown origin:—

“Dormi, fili, dormi! mater


Cantat unigenito:


Dormi, puer, dormi! pater,


Nato clamat parvulo:


Millies tibi laudes canimus


Mille, mille, millies.


Lectum stravi tibi soli,


Dormi, nate bellule!


Stravi lectum foeno molli:


Dormi, mi animule.


Millies tibi laudes canimus


Mille, mille, millies.


Ne quid desit, sternam rosis,


Sternam foenum violis,


Pavimentum hyacinthis


Et praesepe liliis.


Millies tibi laudes canimus


Mille, mille, millies.p. 69


Si vis musicam, pastores


Convocabo protinus;


Illis nulli sunt priores;


Nemo canit castius.


Millies tibi laudes canimus


Mille, mille, millies.” 3-21


Curious little poems are found in Latin and other languages, making a dialogue of the cries of animals at the news of Christ's birth. 3-22 The following French example is fairly typical:—

“Comme les bestes autrefois


Parloient mieux latin que françois,


Le coq, de loin voyant le fait,


S’écria: Christus natus est.


Le bœuf, d'un air tout ébaubi,


Demande: Ubi? Ubi? Ubi?


La chèvre, se tordant le groin,


Répond que c'est à Béthléem.


Maistre Baudet, curiosus


De l'aller voir, dit: Eamus;


Et, droit sur ses pattes, le veau


Beugle deux fois: Volo, Volo! ” 28 3-23


In Wales, in the early nineteenth century, carol-singing was more popular, perhaps, than in England; the carols were sung to the harp, in church at the Plygain or early morning service on Christmas Day, in the homes of the people, and at the doors of the houses by visitors. 3-24 In Ireland, too, the custom of carol-singing then prevailed. 3-25 Dr. Douglas Hyde, in his “Religious Songs of Connacht,” gives and translates an interesting Christmas hymn in Irish, from which two verses may be quoted. They set forth the great paradox of the Incarnation:—

“Little babe who art so great,


Child so young who art so old,p. 70


In the manger small his room,


Whom not heaven itself could hold.


Father—not more old than thou?


Mother—younger, can it be?


Older, younger is the Son,


Younger, older, she than he.” 3-27


Even in dour Scotland, with its hatred of religious festivals, some kind of carolling survived here and there among Highland folk, and a remarkable and very “Celtic” Christmas song has been translated from the Gaelic by Mr. J. A. Campbell. It begins:—

“Sing hey the Gift, sing ho the Gift,


Sing hey the Gift of the Living,


Son of the Dawn, Son of the Star,


Son of the Planet, Son of the Far [twice],


Sing hey the Gift, sing ho the Gift.” 3-28




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