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December 2002

"Song to the divine":
Popular homage to the birth of Christ

To celebrate Christmas in 1998 the Oral Literature and Popular Traditions Archives organized a meeting of popular singers that currently maintain an old tradition called "song to the divine".

By Rosario Mena


The "song to the divine" was first heart during the Spanish Middle Ages, between the 16th and 17th Centuries, and was a common form in Chilean Colonial Literature. From the following century on, these verses addressed to GodChild, the saints, the Virgin and the angels, became a typical kind of popular and rural poetry. The verses, most of them anonymous, were kept registered in literature.

If during the Colonial times, the popular world marked Holy Week as a time of struggle and wails, Christmas represented the exact opposite: a holiday that announced love and life. The so-called "Pascuas" would go between December 24th up to Kings Day, on January 6th, and were a true carnival, which gave Christmas at the Southern Hemisphere a complete different identity to the European tradition, mainly because of the opposite seasons. The Northern Christmas —cold and full of snow— had nothing to do with the warm and extrovert celebration down South. These holidays belonged to the people, the poor and the peasants, and were celebrated with music, dances, food, drink and gifts that sublimated their oppression and poverty.

It was a fecundity party where Mary's labor was combined with rites calling for a more fertile land.

The "song to the divine" has two dimensions: the first is related to the profane and the celebration of Christ's birth. The second belongs to the songs of GodChild novena, celebrated between December 24th and January 6th (Epiphany).

Source:
Maximiliano Salinas C. "Song to the divine and the religion of the oppressed in Chile". Ediciones Rehue. Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana. Santiago, 1991.

 
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