Nativity Legends: Christmas Legends
Over the centuries Christmas and the customs connected with it have inspired a multitude of legends. Many related folk beliefs accompanied these legends. These folk beliefs frequently echoed the underlying premise of the Nativity legends recounted above, that is, that the whole of creation responds to the Savior’s birth by acts of praise, adoration, and service.
One popular European legend declared that oxen knelt in their sta-bles at midnight each year on Christmas Eve to honor the moment of Jesus’birth. Often animals were granted powers far beyond their normal capacities on Christmas Eve. English, French, and German folklore maintained that barnyard animals whispered among them-selves in human language at that moment. The tales cautioned that these animals often spoke of the faults of their human masters or of impending deaths in the community, making it perhaps unwise to try to overhear them. The daring listener would probably find greater delight in creeping up to a beehive on Christmas Eve, since English folklore insisted that bees sang psalms, hymns, or symphonies in glorious harmonies to commemorate the Nativity.
Among Middle Eastern Christians, stories circulated about trees and plants, especially those growing along the banks of the Jordan River, that bowed towards Bethlehem at that same moment. Many European legends marveled at trees and plants that momentarily burst into fruit and flower on Christmas Eve. An old Russian folk belief hinted that water briefly turns into wine in honor of the occasion. French and German folklore declared that hidden treasures revealed themselves at midnight on Christmas Eve, and that mountains split open to display their hidden veins of precious metals and stones. Other tales told of buried or sunken bells that somehow tolled mysteriously at midnight on Christmas Eve. (For other Christmas legends, see Boar’s Head; Cherry Tree; Christmas Rose; Christmas Tree; Flight into Egypt; Frau Gaude; Glastonbury Thorn; Jultomten; Kallikantzari; Christmas in Lebanon; Poinsettia; Snow Maiden; Christmas in Syria; Twelve Days of Christmas; Urban Legends; King Wenceslas; Wild Hunt.)