The Quempas Celebration is largely a Lutheran Christmas Eve tradition. (We have it out of place today by posting about it on the Twelfth Day of Christmas.)
“Quempas” is the shortened title of the Latin Christmas carol “Quem pastores laudavere” (“He whom the shepherds praised”), popular in Germany in the sixteenth century, and used as a generic term for Christmas songs in a German caroling tradition.
The earliest sources of the carol are from the fifteenth century, including the Hohenfurth Monastery Ms. 28 (1410). Many versions exist from the sixteenth century. The most famous version is from Michael Prætorius, Musae Sioniae(1607), with the German text “Den die Hirten lobeten sehre.”
During a short prelude on the Quempas four groups of children station themselves in the four corners of the church. Group A sings the first phrase of the Quempas, group B the second phrase, group C the third phrase, and group D the fourth phrase. (This symbolizes the announcement of Christ’s birth to the four corners of the world.) While the adult choir sings the first stanza of the Nunc angelorum, the children move to new stations. Congregation, choirs and instruments join in the refrain Resonet in laudibus. The remaining stanzas are sung in the same way.
“God’s own Son is born a Child; God the Father is reconciled!” That’s the refrain of the Quempas Carol. It’s also the “Reason for the Season;” the reason we celebrate the miraculous and wonderful birth of Jesus because He was born to bring reconciliation between God and sinful human beings.
Here is Michael Prætorius’ rendering of the Quempas Celebration:
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The Twelve Days of Christmas:
First Day of Christmas: Washington Crosses the Delaware River
Second Day of Christmas: General “Mad Dog” Mattis Gets Christmas Cookies
Third Day of Christmas: General Patton’s Christmas Card
Fourth Day of Christmas: Reagan’s 1986 Christmas Address Is More Relevant Than Ever
Fifth Day of Christmas: Two Musicians, A Broken Organ and “Silent Night”
Sixth Day of Christmas: The Back Story to “Come, O Come Emmanuel”
Seventh Day of Christmas: The Inspiring Story Behind “O Holy Night”
The Eighth Day of Christmas: The Powerful Story Behind “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
The Ninth Day of Christmas: What Child Is This?
The Tenth Day of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten