Moravian Church

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Related to Bohemian Brethren: Herrnhut, Unity of the Brethren

Moravian Church,


Renewed Church of the Brethren,


Unitas Fratrum

(yo͞onē`täs frä`tro͝om), an evangelical Christian communion whose adherents are sometimes called United Brethren or Herrnhuters. It originated (1457) near Kunwald, Bohemia, among some of the followers of John HussHuss, John
, Czech Jan Hus , 1369?–1415, Czech religious reformer. Early Life

Of peasant origin, he was born in Husinec, Bohemia (from which his name is derived). He studied theology at the Univ. of Prague, was ordained a priest c.
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 and was originally known as the Church of the Brotherhood. A break between the new brotherhood and the Roman Church occurred in 1467, and persecution drove many of the Brethren out of Bohemia and Moravia into Poland, Austria, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The Moravians established excellent schools and printing presses, but by the end of the Thirty Years WarThirty Years War,
1618–48, general European war fought mainly in Germany. General Character of the War

There were many territorial, dynastic, and religious issues that figured in the outbreak and conduct of the war.
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 (1648), only a remnant of the original movement remained.

In 1722 a company of those still faithful to the teachings of the Brethren took refuge in Saxony, where they built a town, Herrnhut, reviving the elements of the original church and founding the Renewed Moravian Church (1727). The church's missionary endeavors soon extended to the West Indies, North and South America, Africa, and Asia, chiefly under the direction of August Gottlieb SpangenbergSpangenberg, August Gottlieb
, 1704–92, a bishop of the Moravian Church and a founder of that church in America, b. Prussia. While at the Univ. of Jena, he met Graf von Zinzendorf, and in 1730 he paid a visit to the Moravian colony, Herrnhut.
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, who later became (1735) the founder of the Moravian Church in America. Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Lititz, Pa., were founded (c.1740) as Moravian settlements, and missionary work among Native Americans and white settlers was actively carried on.

In 1999 the U.S. church joined with several others in establishing full communion with the country's largest Lutheran denomination. During the late 20th cent. the church experienced increasing growth outside of its well-established communities. By 2000 church membership was about 50,000 in the United States and 700,000 worldwide, with about half of the worldwide total in Tanzania.

The Moravians emphasize conduct rather than doctrine, and their church is governed by provincial synods, the bishops having only spiritual and administrative authority. The music in Moravian churches is famous, especially the part-singing of the congregations.


See historical studies by E. Langton (1956) and J. T. Hamilton (1989); E. A. Sawyer, All about the Moravians (1990).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Christmas Eve

December 24
Christmas Eve or the Vigil of Christmas represents the culmination of the Advent season. Like Christmas itself, Christmas Eve celebrations combine both religious and secular events. Perhaps the most widely anticipated by children is the arrival of Santa Claus—known as Sinterklass by the Dutch settlers of New York, who were the first to introduce the idea of St. Nicholas's annual appearance on this day; the original Santa Claus was the tall, saintly looking bishop, Nicholas of Metz. It wasn't until the 19th century that he became the jolly, overweight, pipe-smoking figure in a red fur-trimmed suit that children in the United States recognize today. The modern Santa Claus was largely the invention of two men: Clement Moore, who in 1822 wrote his now-famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," and Thomas Nast, a cartoonist who did numerous illustrations of Santa Claus based on Moore's description. In any case, it is on Christmas Eve that Santa Claus climbs down the chimney and fills the children's stockings that have been hung by the fireplace mantel. Before going to bed children around the world leave milk and food out for the one who brings the presents, be it Santa Claus, the baby Jesus, the Christmas elf of Denmark, the Christmas goat of Finland (called Joulupukki ), or the Swedish tomte, or little man, who resembles Puck or a leprechaun.
The midnight church service celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ is the main Christmas Eve tradition for many Christians of all denominations and even of non-believers, especially if there is a good organist, soloist, or choir. In most European countries, a large but meatless meal is eaten before church, for it is a fast day. Some families, especially those with grown children, exchange gifts on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day. Caroling—going from house to house singing Christmas carols—began in Europe in the Middle Ages. The English brought the custom to America, where it is still very popular.
In Venezuela, after midnight on Christmas Eve, crowds of teenagers roller skate on the Avenida de los Caiboas. After an hour or so, they attend a special early mass called Misa de Aguinaldos, "Mass of the Carols," where they're greeted at the door with folk songs. Then they skate home for Christmas breakfast.
In Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, Canada, mummers, or belsnickers, go from house to house. Once inside they jog, tell licentious stories, play instruments and sing, and generally act up until the householder identifies the person under the mask. Then the mummer takes off his or her costume and acts like a normal visitor.
In the 19th century, in what is now New Mexico, bundles of branches were set ablaze along the roads and pathways. Called farolitos and luminarias, these small fires are meant to guide the Travelers to the people's homes on Christmas Eve. Residents are ready to give hospitality to anyone on that night, especially Joseph and Mary with the Christ Child. They wait in faith for the Travelers' three knocks on their door. But modern fire codes overtook the ancient faith, and firefighters began to extinguish the small piles of burning pine branches for fear a spark would start an inferno. Small brown paper bags partially filled with sand and holding a candle eventually replaced the open fires. Inevitably merchants began to sell wires of electric lights to replace the candles, and plastic, multi-colored sleeves to imitate lunch bags, and the modern luminarias began to appear at holidays like Halloween and the Fourth of July.
Last-minute shopping is another Christmas Eve tradition, and stores often stay open late to accommodate those who wait until the last minute to purchase their Christmas gifts.
In Buddhist Japan, Christmas Eve is for lovers, a concept introduced by a Japanese pop star and expanded by trendy magazines. It is a Western rite celebrated with a Japanese twist. The day should be spent doing something extra special (expensive), and should end in a fine Tokyo hotel room, most of which have been booked since the previous January; even the cheapest rooms go for exorbitant prices. Being alone on this night is comparable to being dateless on prom night in the United States.
Uncle Chimney is the Japanese version of Santa Claus. Youngsters may be treated to a $29 (or more) barrel of Kentucky Fried Chicken (10 pieces of chicken, five containers of ice cream, and salad) if their parents don't mind lining up for two hours. The reason for the chicken is that many Japanese think Colonel Sanders resembles Santa Claus. Another culinary tradition is strawberry shortcake with a plastic fir tree on top. This was introduced 70 years ago by a Japanese confectioner as a variant of plum pudding. While the origins of this form of Christmas are unclear, many people say it dates from the 1930s, well before the United States occupation in 1945 after World War II.
See also Befana Festival; Día de los Tres Reyes; Giant Lantern Festival; Posadas; St. Nicholas's Day; "Silent Night, Holy Night" Celebration; Tolling the Devil's Knell; Wigilia
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 850
BkDays-1864, vol. II, p. 733
BkFest-1937, pp. 9, 20, 22, 35, 48, 62, 73, 92, 98, 107, 116, 129, 139, 154, 175, 191, 215, 222, 234, 252, 272, 280, 287, 296, 304, 313, 322, 333, 344
BkHolWrld-1986, Dec 24
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 350
DictFolkMyth-1984, pp. 549, 591, 1063
FestSaintDays-1915, pp. 8, 228
FestWestEur-1958, pp. 27, 28, 50, 82, 83, 102, 120, 156, 206, 219, 239
HolSymbols-2009, p. 137
OxYear-1999, p. 510
RelHolCal-2004, p. 85

Celebrated in: Armenia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Slovakia, Switzerland

Christmas Eve (Armenia)
January 5 by the Julian calendar; January 18 by the Gregorian calendar
On Christmas Eve in Armenia it is traditional to eat fried fish, lettuce, and boiled spinach. The spinach is eaten to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary, who, according to legend, ate spinach on the evening before Jesus' birth. After a morning church service on Christmas Day, the men exchange brief social calls and are served coffee and sweets. On the third day after Christmas, it's the women's turn to make and receive calls.
BkFest-1937, p. 22
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 351
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 36

Celebrated in: Armenia

Christmas Eve (Baltics)
December 24
Many people in Estonia attend church on Christmas Eve. The holiday dinner, which follows the church service, typically includes roasted pig's head or blood sausages, turnips, and potatoes. For dessert there is cranberry soup, and of course plenty of Estonian vodka, which is made from the potatoes for which the country is famous. Many of the Christmas tree ornaments are edible, and real candles—often made by dipping a lamb's wool thread into hot sheep fat—are used to light the tree.
In Latvia, the tree is the only Christmas decoration, and it is laden with gilded walnuts, artificial snow, tinsel, small red apples, and colored candies. After the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, which consists of roast pork, goose and boar's head, and little meat-filled pastries known as piradzini, the candles on the tree are lighted and the gifts piled beneath it are distributed and opened.
In Lithuania family members break and consume delicate wafers, or plotkeles, on Christmas Eve as a token of peace. The family puts a little hay under the tablecloth as a reminder that Jesus was born in a stable. The kucios, or Christmas Eve supper, consists of fish soup followed by cabbage, fried and boiled fish, sauerkraut, and a huge pike served with a hearty, dark gravy. Dessert is kisielius, a pudding-like dish that is composed of cream of oats, sugar, and cream.
Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press and Information Department
Islandi valjak 1
Tallinn, 15049 Estonia
372-6-317-000; fax: 372-6-317-099
BkFest-1937, pp. 107, 215, 222
EncyChristmas-2003, pp. 225, 421, 427

Christmas Eve (Bethlehem)
December 24
Located only a few miles from Jerusalem in an area that is part of the biblical land of Palestine, Bethlehem is known as the birthplace of Jesus and has long been regarded as a holy place by Christians. A church was eventually built on the site, and the crypt beneath it, known as the Grotto of the Nativity, is reputed to be the site of the original manger. Because there have been so many arguments over the years about which Christian church should control the sanctuary, it is jointly owned by the Armenian, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches. A Roman Catholic mass is held there at midnight on Christmas Eve, and because pilgrims from all over the world attend, most of them end up watching the service on a large closed-circuit television screen in nearby Manger Square. The highlight of the service occurs when a carved wooden figure of the Christ Child is laid in a manger in the Grotto of the Nativity.
Protestants hold an outdoor service in Shepherds' Field where, according to tradition, the shepherds kept watch over the flocks on the first Christmas Eve.
Palestine Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
Manger St.
P.O. Box 534
Bethlehem, Palestine
970-2-274-1581; fax: 970-2-274-3753
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 62

Christmas Eve (Denmark) (Juleaften)
December 24
The celebration of Christmas in Denmark actually begins on Little Christmas Eve (December 23) and continues well into the New Year. It is customary to make enough apple fritters on Little Christmas Eve to last three days. In rural areas, farmers tie a sheaf of grain to a pole in the garden so that the birds can feed from it. Even city dwellers tie bunches of grain to their balconies.
The traditional Christmas Eve dinner starts with risengr+d (rice porridge). Like Christmas puddings elsewhere, there is an almond hidden inside the porridge. Whoever finds it receives a prize. The risengr+d is followed by roast goose stuffed with prunes and apples and decorated with small Danish flags. After dinner, family members often dance around the Christmas tree, sing carols, and exchange gifts.
The Julenisse, or Christmas gnome, is a small bearded man dressed in gray with a pointed red cap who, according to Danish legend, lives in attics or barns and is responsible for bringing a family good or bad luck. On Christmas Eve the Julenisse is given a generous portion of risengr+d with an extra helping of butter.
Royal Danish Embassy
3200 Whitehaven St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-234-4300; fax: 202-328-1470
BkFest-1937, p. 98
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 192
FestWestEur-1958, p. 27

Celebrated in: Denmark

Christmas Eve (Finland) (Jouluaatto)
December 24
Before sitting down to the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, many Finns go to church and place flowers and lighted candles on the graves of departed family members. Then the family gathers around the table and listens to the head of the household read a Christmas prayer. The meal itself includes lipeäkala (the Christmas fish) and ham, various breads, a kind of plum cake known as torttuja, and the traditional rice pudding in which an almond has been hidden. According to superstition, the boy or girl who finds it will be married before the next Christmas. The tree is decorated with homemade paper or wooden toys, gingerbread cookies, gilded walnuts, and other treats.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland
Department for Communication and Culture
P.O. Box 176
Helsinki, 00161 Finland
358-9-1600-5; fax: 358-9-1605-5901
BkFest-1937, p. 116
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 602

Celebrated in: Finland

Christmas Eve (France) (Veille de Noël)
December 24
Christmas Eve church services in Paris can be quite elaborate, while those in rural areas of France are usually very simple. No matter where it takes place, the Christmas Mass involves burning candles, Christmas carols, bells, and a creche or miniature Nativity scene. Most homes also have a creche. In Provence, the creche includes not only the Holy Family, but small clay figures called santons representing traditional village characters—the butcher, baker, basket maker, flute players, etc.—who come to adore the infant Jesus. In Marseilles, there is a Santon Fair in the weeks preceding Christmas that is attended by people from all over Provence who want to purchase the traditional santons, made from molds that have been used for generations.
After the midnight service is over, families return to their homes for the rÉveillon, or traditional Christmas Eve meal, which includes pâtÉ de foie gras, oysters, blood sausage, pancakes, and plenty of French wine. It is customary for the newspapers to calculate how many kilograms of blood sausage have been consumed at rÉveillon. Many families serve goose because, according to a Provençal legend, the goose clucked a greeting to the Wise Men when they drew near the baby Jesus.
In France children leave a pair of shoes out for PÅre Noæl, the French gift bringer, to fill with treats.
In some parts of France, people celebrate Christmas Eve with the FÉte des Bergers, the Shepherds' Mass or Shepherds' Festival. The event revolves around a procession led by shepherds and shepherdesses dressed in traditional, local costumes. A simple farm cart, led by a ram, is decorated with bells, flowers, and candles. The shepherds and shepherdesses put a lamb in the cart and lead it in a procession around the church. Then a shepherd picks up the lamb and gives it to the priest, a gesture that is said to represent the offering of a newborn lamb to the infant Jesus.
French Embassy
4101 Reservoir Rd. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007
202-944-6000; fax: 202-944-6166
Department of Canadian Heritage and France's Ministry of Culture
150 John St., Ste. 400
Toronto, ON M5V 3T6 Canada
416-973-5400; fax: 416-954-2909
BkFest-1937, p. 129
BkHolWrld-1986, Dec 24
EncyChristmas-2003, pp. 262, 644
FestWestEur-1958, p. 50

Celebrated in: France

Christmas Eve (Italy) (La Vigilia)
December 24
The presÉpio, or Nativity manger, with its miniature figures of the Holy Family, angels, shepherds, and Three Kings plays a major role in the Italian observance of Christmas and is thought to have originated with St. Francis of Assisi more than 700 years ago. The presÉpio is set up on the first day of the Novena (the nine days preceding Christmas); on each subsequent morning, the family gathers before the presÉpio to light candles and offer prayers. Although manger figures are on sale in every market and village fair, in many families the manger is an heirloom that has been handed down for generations. The setting for the manger is usually built at home from cardboard, moss, and bits of twig, and it can be quite elaborate.
Christmas Eve is a family affair. After lighting candles before the presÉpio, a meatless meal known as the cenone, or festa supper, is served. It usually consists of some type of fish (eel is popular among the well-to-do), fowl, artichokes cooked with eggs, fancy breads, and Italian sweets such as cannoli (cheese-filled pastry), nougat, and other delicacies.
The Yule log plays a more important role than the Christmas tree. The children may tap it with sticks, requesting certain gifts. Few presents are given on Christmas Eve, since Epiphany is the time for gift-giving. The evening concludes with a church service at midnight.
In parts of Calabria and the Abruzzi, itinerant bagpipers, or zampognari, come down from the mountains and go from house to house playing pastoral hymns before the homemade mangers. They are given gifts of food or money.
See also Befana Festival
BkFest-1937, p. 191
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 365
FestSaintDays-1915, p. 229
FestWestEur-1958, p. 102

Celebrated in: Italy

Christmas Eve (Moravian Church)
December 24
Members of the Moravian Church—named after Moravia, a region in the former Czechoslovakia (now part of the Czech Republic)—fled to America to escape persecution in the mid-18th century. They established a number of communities in Pennsylvania, one of which is called Bethlehem and known as "America's Christmas City." As Christmas approaches, the Moravians carry on the Old World tradition of building a Christmas "putz" (from the German word putzen, meaning "to decorate") or Nativity scene, which can range from a simple mantle decoration to an elaborate miniature landscape.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, they hold a children's "love feast" consisting of music, meditation, and a simple meal—usually sweet buns and mugs of sweetened coffee—served in the church. Then, after dinner, they assemble again in the church for the Christmas Eve Vigil, a service devoted almost entirely to music. The church lights are dimmed and handmade beeswax candles are distributed to the entire congregation while the children's choir sings a favorite Moravian hymn. A similar observance is held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, now a historical restoration at which the Moravian way of life is preserved.
Moravian Church in North America
P.O. Box 1245
Bethlehem, PA 18016
610-867-0593; fax: 610-866-9223
Moravian Music Foundation
Southern Music Archives, Research Library and Main Office
457 S. Church St.
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
336-725-0651; fax: 336-725-4514
Old Salem Online
P.O. Box F Salem Station
Winston-Salem, NC 27108
888-653-7253 or 336-721-7300; fax: 336-721-7335
DictWrldRel-1981, p. 493
EncyChristmas-2003, pp. 64, 438, 632
OxDictWrldRel-1997, p. 655
RelHolCal-2004, p. 86

Christmas Eve (Switzerland) (HeiligerAbend)
December 24
There are a number of superstitions and folk beliefs surrounding Christmas Eve in Switzerland. One is the belief that animals gain the power of speech at midnight on Christmas Eve because they were present at Jesus' birth. Farmers give their horses, cows, goats, and other animals extra food on this night, but it's considered bad luck to overhear what the animals say. Old people claim that they can predict the weather for the next 12 months by peeling off 12 layers of onionskin and filling them with salt. Young lovers who want to find out who they will marry are told to drink from nine different fountains while the midnight church bells are ringing on Christmas Eve. If they rush to the church, their future mate will be standing on the steps.
Christkindli, or the Christ Child, who travels in a sleigh pulled by six reindeer, brings Swiss children their gifts. In the area surrounding Hallwil in the canton of Lucerne, a girl dressed in white robes, glittering crown, and a veil portrays the Christ Child. Other children, wearing white garments and carrying baskets of gifts and lanterns, accompany her on her rounds. Some families wait until the Christkindli enters the house to light the candles on the Christmas tree. In many homes the tree is kept hidden until after Christmas Eve supper, when the parlor doors are opened and the tree is displayed in all its glory.
In Zurich cakes known as Tirggel, whose main ingredients are flour and honey, are served at Christmas time. The cakes are believed to have originated as a pagan offering. They are made by pushing dough into intricate molds, shaped like characters from folktales, cartoons and other popular subjects. The finished cakes are tough and glossy, so it is not uncommon for them to be kept for months, or even years, and to be used as decorations around the house.
Swiss Embassy
2900 Cathedral Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-745-7900; fax: 202-387-2564
BkFest-1937, p. 322
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 114
FestWestEur-1958, p. 239

Celebrated in: Switzerland

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
The former, technical usage for Anabaptist group names most likely stems from the cultural and linguistic context of Moravia where the term "Brethren," without any further specification, usually denoted the "Unity of the Bohemian Brethren," or Unitas Fratrum.
The closest parallel may have been the Unity of Bohemian Brethren, who, however, had a centralized structure of clerical leadership and were limited to the geographical space of the two provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, where they generally enjoyed much more favorable conditions than the Anabaptists.
For example, Votice had been a center for the Bohemian Brethren and its local landowner was executed as a rebel in 1621.
The Bohemian Brethren, Czech followers of Jan Hus, active in and around Prague, developed their distinctive vernacular hymnody during the fifteenth century.
The hymnal was issued for lay use by evangelical Christians in and around the city and not for specific use by Bohemian Brethren. Further, Katharina Zell did not take over all the music of the 1531 Weisse hymnal but included different melodies, some adapted or modeled on preexisting tunes, others apparently newly composed, presumably by Katharina (Eg81-96; for the background see Elsie Anne McKee, Reforming Popular Piety in Sixteenth-ce ntury Strasbourg: Katharina Schutz Zell and her Hymnbook [Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary, 1994], and Katharina Schutz Zell: Works, 2 vols., ed.
Recorded: 9/2005, the Church of the Bohemian Brethren, Nymburk.
Klug); ef = Konigsberg hymnals; eg = hymnals of the Bohemian Brethren; eh = Constance and Zurich hymnals; ei = Leipzig hymnals I (pub.
In addition to the three sigla, the confessional orientation of each source is identified by the simple letter code that is employed in the RISM bibliography: B = Bohemian Brethren; E = "Evangelisch," that is, those sources that cannot be identified as either Lutheran or Reformed; K = Catholic; L = Lutheran; R = Reformed; T = "Taufer," that is, Baptist and Mennonite.