The veneration of the crèche which began in the Middle Ages led in Germany to the custom of Kindelwiegen or “Cradle Rocking”. At first the rocking was performed by priests who sang a duet about the Virgin and the Baby Jesus; the choir and congregation then joined in singing and dancing around the crib. Later the people were allowed to rock the cradle themselves. In the sixteenth century Protestants abandoned the custom, and even to Catholics the rocking seemed like an irreverent act, so the image of the Christ Child was removed to the altar while folk danced around it as Barnaby Googe relates:
Three Maisses every Priest doth sing upon that solemne day,
With offrings unto enery one, that so the more may play.
This done, a woodden childe in clowtes is on the aultar set
About the which both boyes and gyrles do daunce and trymly jet,
And Carrols sing in prayse of Christ, and for to helpe them heare,
The Organs aunswere every verse, with sweete and solemne cheare.
The Priestes doe rore aloude, and round about the parentes stande,
To see the sport, and with their voyce do helpe them and their hande.
In the eighteenth century it was performed every day between Christmas and Candlemas by boy-acolytes of Brixen Cathedral in Tyrol. The rowdiness of the scene may be inferred from the printed instructions to the sacristan: “Be sure to take a stick or a thong of ox hide, for the boys are often misbehaved.” The custom fell into disuse but has been revived in some Catholic parishes in the 21st century.