The Word in 80 languages : the December 2018 Slavonic (and much more) item of the month

In the year 2000, the Institute for Bible Translation produced a rather remarkable volume containing the nativity narrative of Luke’s Gospel (2:1-20) translated into 80 languages of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States.

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Nativity festivity: a celebration of crib scenes in the UL

The birth of Jesus has been represented in images since the 4th century when it appeared in reliefs on sarcophagi in Rome. St Francis of Assisi was perhaps the first to create a (living) nativity in the early 13th century. Since that time the nativity scene has spread from Italy across Europe and become an important part of Christmas festivities in many cultures in both public and domestic settings. The nativity has also been a major subject in paintings and other artistic forms since medieval times. We are celebrating this Christmas season with a look at some examples from our collections. Continue reading

Carols from around Europe in the UL

The countdown to Christmas Day has begun and is marked each year by certain pre-Christmas traditions. One much-loved tradition in the Cambridge library community is the Entrance Hall carols sung by the Library choir. I am a member of this choir and I noticed during rehearsals that several of this year’s carols had interesting European origins which it might be worth delving into. Continue reading

Christmas comes but once a year

It is the time of year when Christians around the world celebrate Christmas. The celebrations include a range of activities from attending church, to decorating trees, exchanging presents and eating traditional foods. All countries where Christmas is celebrated enjoy a variety of traditions relating to Christmas, and European countries are no exception. This post explores some of those traditions as reflected in the University Library’s collections.

Babar Christmas tree

Babar et le Père Noël (Waddleton.a.4.468)

Christmas music plays a very important part of Christmas celebration. At the UL, there are hundreds of Christmas music books in different languages, such as Weihnachtslied : Kantate für Soli, Chor, Strichorchester und Orgel (M210.d.95.39) and Noëls populaires de Provence (MR250.b.90.7). The Christmas tree was a symbol of Christianity and started probably around 1000 years ago in Northern Europe, although no one is sure when the fir tree was first used as a Christmas tree. The custom of bringing a Christmas tree into our homes as we do today is believed to originate from the German preacher Martin Luther (D. Martin Luther: Leben und Werk, 61:23.d.95.26-) around the year 1500. There are many books written about Christmas trees in UL, including Russkai︠a︡ ëlka : istorii︠a︡, mifologii︠a︡, literatura (2004.7.1064).

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A Chilean “anti-carol”


The cover of Coplas de Navidad, by Nicanor Parra.

The year 2013 will surely be one not to forget for many Chileans. Just last Sunday 15th December, two women were rivals in the race for the presidency, producing an unprecedented democratic contest. Michelle Bachelet ran against her childhood friend, Evelyn Matthei, and won the second round of the election with 62.16% of the vote. With her, two other young women (Camila Vallejo and Karol Cariola, from the student movement) are going to join the government and advocate a better and fairer educational system, which has been the subject of protests since 2011. Things have not always looked that promising in Chile.

On December 19th 1983, exactly 30 years ago, poet Nicanor Parra published Coplas de Navidad (Christmas ballads or verses), of which our Library holds one of only 1000 copies printed (classmark: S743:3.b.9.73). Continue reading