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Polish Christmas

Poland offers the world as beautiful a festival in the spiritual values of the occasion as can be found in the whole realm of Religious tradition in its "Festival of the Star."

December 24th is a Fast Day until the first star appears in the evening sky. This star is eagerly watched for by the children who strive with one another to be the first to announce it. The "Wilia," or Christmas Supper, then begins. Straw is placed under the table, the dishes and tablecloth; a chair is left vacant for the Holy Child.

The head of the family takes a thin wafer bearing Christmas characters and blessed by the Priest and with a simple prayer for God's Grace and the welfare of the present, and absent, members of his family, breaks the wafer and distributes it, a piece to each, at the table.

The traditional Supper of certain fish then commences, followed by the choicest and most varied of the regional foods the house can offer. After the Supper the streets are traversed by boys and girls singing carols, and carrying "Zopkas" with marionettes performing upon its miniature stage the traditional Nativity Play. Also thronging the streets will be other boys garbed as strange beasts, the devil, and other characters, led by a Star Boy; echoes of some long-forgotten Miracle Play. The "Festival of the Star" is brought to a close with the celebration at midnight of the "Shepherd's Mass."

On the feast of the Epiphany, the priest and the organist visit the homes, bless them and write over their doors the initials of the three wise men--KMB (Kasper, Melchior and Balthazar) - in the belief that this will spare the homes from misfortune.

The two polish carols: Gdy Sie, Chrystus Rodzi (When Christ is born) and Medrcy Swiata (Three Wise Men) are a beautiful tribute to Christmas and the Epiphany.

The First Noel

The First Noel is of French or English origin dating back to the 13th century. Originally derived from the Catholic "Miracle Plays" of the Middle Ages, it tells the story of Christmas from a biblical perspective beginning with the angelic announcement of the Saviors birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem. Our video is in keeping with the tradition of the "Miracle Plays" of old, in which the story of Christmas is told, not by actors and actresses, but through the beautiful medium of traditional artwork and song.

Pueri Concinite--Christmas Motet

Pueri concinite is a sacred motet composed in the late Renaissance by the Slovene/ Austrian composer Jacob Handl (1550-1591). He spent most of his life in the service of the Catholic Church in Austria as a Cistercian priest and Chapel Master for courts and churches throughout Austria and Bohemia. His music is admired for its beauty of woven counterpoint and vast range of expression gaining him the high praise of being called the Palestrina of Bohemia.

Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine

Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine is a German Christmas Carol originating from the 14th century. All but two of the paintings depicting the Nativity of Our Lord are by the Catholic painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo. What follows is an excerpt taken from the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia about this great artist.

Spanish painter; b. at Seville, 31 December, 1617; d. there 5 April, 1682. His family surname was Esteban; that of Murillo, which he assumed in accordance with an Andalusian custom, was his mother's. His father was an artisan. An orphan at the age of ten, Bartolome was brought up by his uncle, J.A. Lagares, a barber.

His was a very pure life, and perfectly happy, all spent within that one Sevillian horizon which the artist never wished to change for any other. He devoted himself to work on a large scale for the convents of his native Seville, work which, in some respects, recalls the Giottesque paintings of the fourteenth century. In contrast with Velasquez and the Madrid school, Murillo is wholly a religious painter and was the national painter of a country where all sentiment was still merged in the one sentiment of religion.

It has been said that Murillo "loved to bring the sacred truths near to us, to make us see them as intimate and familiar realities, to show us the Divine." Our hope is that this video does just that.