Page:Our American Holidays - Christmas.djvu/23

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INTRODUCTION ix

he said. ' Me watch to see deer kneel. Christmas night all deer kneel and look up to Great Spirit.'

In the German Alps it is believed that the cattle have the gift of language on Christmas Eve. But it is a sin to attempt to play the eavesdropper upon them. An Alpine story is told of a farmer's servant who did not believe that the cattle could speak, and, to make sure, he hid in his master's stable on Christmas Eve and listened. When the clock struck twelve he was surprised at what he heard. 'We shall have hard work to do this day week,' said one horse. 'Yes; the farmer's servant is heavy,' answered the other horse. 'And the way to the churchyard is long and steep,' said the first. The servant was buried that day week."

There is a beautiful superstition about the cock that Shakespeare put into the mouth of Marcellus, in Hamlet

     "Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
     Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
     The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
     And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
     The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
     No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm;
     So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."