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Festivals of Western Europe

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Author Topic: Festivals of Western Europe  (Read 3227 times)
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« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2009, 01:29:51 pm »

ALLERKINDERENDAG (Holy Innocents' Day) December 28

    December 28 is the traditional anniversary of the slaughter of Bethlehem's innocent children by Herod, who wished to be sure of killing the Infant Jesus. According to popular legend two of the unfortunate children were found buried in the Convent of Saint Gerard, in the province of Namur. In Belgium, as in some other countries, Holy Innocents' Day eventually became a time when children were allowed to play all sorts of tricks on their elders.

    In some places children try to put adults under lock and key and make them buy themselves out of bondage. Early in the morning the "innocents" attempt to get possession of all keys in the house. Whenever an unsuspecting grown-up enters a closet or room, he may unexpectedly find himself a prisoner. His freedom is not restored until he pays the forfeit the boys or girls demand--an orange, a toy, spending money, a sweet--the ransom varying with his keeper's whim. The adult who is held for ransom is called the "sugar uncle" or "sugar aunt."


    "Sylvester" is the nickname popularly applied to the lazy boy or girl who rises last on the final day of the year. Since "Sylvesters" traditionally have to pay a forfeit to their brothers and sisters, each child tries to be first to bound out of bed on the morning of December 31.

    Girls, especially, try to be industrious on this day because of the old saying that one who does not finish her handwork by sunset will remain an old maid throughout the year.

    All over Belgium the reveillon, or New Year's Eve family party, is a gay event. At midnight everyone kisses, exchanges good wishes for a Happy New Year and drinks toasts to absent relatives and friends. In the cities, cafes and restaurants are crowded with pleasure-seekers who eat, drink, and bid a noisy farewell to the Old Year.

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