I have celebrated the Christmas Creche tradition of Medieval Europe for many years now. Each year, wherever I am, I craft a simple manger from willow I have cut from nature and create a crib for the baby Christ. Each day I fill the empty crib with different herbs I have gathered. These herbs were known as Holy Hay or Cradle Grasses during the time of Medieval Europe. People of this time period did not know how to read or write, but they knew the ways of nature and all the flowers of the field. So many of the herbs are attached to stories and legends of the Christ Child or Saints to help teach people understand the Ways of Christ.
The Cradle Grass tradition is almost forgotten now, and not celebrated here in Europe as in ancient times. So I hold this tradition inside of myself and I want to share this with all of you here on Facebook so that the beauty of this tradition is not lost or forgotten. Each day I will share a story of one of the advent herbs and we will place them into the Christ Cradle with the legend that is connected to the herb.
The first Creche that ever was celebrated in Europe began with Saint Francis of Assisi in Greccio in Italy. This little village is perched up high on a rugged rock cliff hovering over the valley below. Saint Francis and his brothers were staying in the town at the time. Saint Francis, right before Christmas decided to re-enact the birth of Christ. But he needed the right stage to recreate this Holy Event. But Francis was a poor man without the means to create such a Divine Drama. So a rich man who lived in the village named John Veltri donated his stable. The stable was built right into the side of the cliff. Senor Veltri also allowed Francis to use his manger and his cows, goats and sheep. Everything was arranged perfectly, a manger with all the sweetest herbs was placed in the stable and the animals all quietly gathered around Francis, his brothers, and the people of the village. Francis began to pray holding his hands out to the manger, asking the spirit of the Christ Child to come to this Sacred Gathering. All of a sudden the stable was filled with light and people had visions of St. Francis holding the Baby Jesus. Francis’ pure heart and his heart-felt prayers were answered and the Presence of the Christ Child entered the stable. Healings took place for the people that had gathered and at the end of the event all the Holy Hay was fed to the animals and it was said that the sick animals were made healthy again.
This tradition was recreated year after year in many cities and towns of Old Europe. Master Craftsmen would sculpt the Holy family all year long for the village Creche. Master Herbalists would save the best herbs picked during the season just to place in the Creshe for Christmas Day. So join me on this daily advent journey and let us remember together a true Christmas tradition so it will not be lost. Join me through advent to explore this ancient tradition. You might even like to make a simple manger at home and fill it each day with fresh herbs from your garden or the local market.
The Holy Family is usually seen historically as Jesus, Mary and Joseph. But I would like to invite you to see this Holy Trinity in a different way this season, as Sacred Archetypes within your own heart. The Christ child representing our own Inner Child that needs to be reclaimed. Mary is the Divine Mother principle and Joseph is the Divine Father principle. If you take a moment to reflect how the Mother,Father and child have become separated in our modern world, we can begin to realize the importance these Sacred Archetypes hold healing for those who came from families of divorce or separation.
The wounded inner child needs to be reclaimed in one’s heart and properly nurtured by both the Masculine and the Feminine Principles inside ourselves. Otherwise one will project outward, looking for the Lost Mother or the Lost Father. The Holy Family Archetype, when found in our own Heart Center and reclaimed, can be power for one’s personal growth and healing. So let us journey together.
One of the greatest gifts I have is my words so I offer each one of you my words this year in the True Spirit of the Season. May you enjoy this rich tradition and may it warm your heart each day until Christmas
Raylene Abbott, Paris, France
December 8, 2009