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Renewed Church of the Brethren,or
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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. (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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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 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
Christmas Eve (Armenia)
BkFest-1937, p. 22
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 351
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 36
Celebrated in: Armenia
Christmas Eve (Baltics)
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)
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
P.O. Box 534
970-2-274-1581; fax: 970-2-274-3753
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 62
Christmas Eve (Denmark) (Juleaften)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
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