Last week I brought you Christmas Superstitions I ---- The Good, the Bad and the Scary. This week’s installment brings you The Innocent, the Odd and the Downright Creepy! (As before, here's the official disclaimer -- Remember, these are folktales and traditions, and not intended to be taken as truth!)
Taking three sips of salty water before Christmas dinner brings good luck. (Three sips of Alka-Seltzer afterwards helps even more, LOL). Many cultures throughout Europe and the British Isles believe that all water turns into wine at midnight on Christmas Eve.
It’s lucky to eat an apple on Christmas Eve. If you’re single, eating a roasted apple that night will allow you to hear the voice of your future spouse in your dreams. It’s bad luck to refuse a slice of mince pie, and good luck to eat a slice of pie in every house you visit – the more houses, the more luck!
People used to mix in silver charms when making the Christmas pudding, and objects also went into the mince pie. The items predicted the future of whoever found them in their piece of pie or pudding. A coin meant good luck, a thimble meant prosperity, a ring meant a wedding.
An old Irish belief says that the gates of Heaven are wide open on Christmas Eve and that anyone who dies then will go straight to Heaven.
The first person downstairs on Christmas morning was to take a broom, open the front door and sweep all “trouble” from the doorstep. A variation on this is to sweep all the bad luck out of the house.
English folklore tells girls to knock on the henhouse door on Christmas Eve. If a rooster crows, she’ll marry within the year. If there is silence, she’ll never marry!
It’s unlucky to receive a gift of new shoes or tanned leather on Christmas. However, some people in Greece ward off bad luck in the upcoming year by burning their old shoes during the Christmas season (Hmmmm... I know a pair of my husband’s shoes I’d like to burn!) Another footwear superstition says that all the family’s shoes should be placed neatly side by side on Christmas Eve to prevent quarreling in the new year.
In Wales, the plough should be brought into the house and kept under the dining table during the entire Christmas season. This assured a good harvest in the coming year.
If you eat a raw egg before eating anything else on Christmas morning, you’ll become exceptionally strong.
And the Downright Creepy!
Dogs that howl on Christmas Eve will go mad before the end of the year. A candle or a lamp should be kept burning all night on Christmas Eve to avoid a death in the house in the following year.
Instead of water turning into wine at midnight on Christmas Eve, some hold the belief that the water in streams and wells turns into blood! Not only that, if you witness this change, you’ll die within the year!
A Scandinavian belief states that it’s dangerous to go out on Christmas Eve because of the many supernatural beings that come out of their hiding places that night. Trolls, witches, goblins and ghosts roam freely, some of which are the spirits of the dead revisiting their previous homes. Gifts must be left outside – bowls of pudding and cream, clothes, tobacco and even ale – in order to appease some of these creatures. The most perilous time occurred between cock’s crow and dawn, when supernatural beings were at the peak of their power. To go outside meant risking death or being carried off by them, never to be seen again.
Swedish folklore puts a chilling twist on this story. On Christmas Eve, they prepare their dining room with food and ale and blazing fire – and leave it overnight to enable the spirits of the dead to celebrate. The family checks the chairs in the morning for traces of earth, proof that the dead have come calling!
A once popular parlor game gave everyone an apple after dinner, which was then cut in half across the middle to reveal the pattern of the core. If the core is star-shaped (most apples have this), the owner of the apple will see another Christmas. If the core is a different shape, the owner’s death will occur in the next twelve months! The appearance of a four-pointed cross was worst of all – although what was worse than death is never mentioned.
Parlor games including keeping tabs on everyone’s shadow throughout the evening. If anyone’s shadow were to appear headless, that person would die within the coming year.
An old Breton tale tells the story of a blacksmith who refused to stop working after the church bell had rung for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Suddenly a tall man entered his shop with a scythe that needed mending. The blacksmith did the work, and instead of paying him, the mysterious man told him to send for a priest because this work would be his last. By the time the roosters crowed on Christmas morning, the blacksmith was dead. He had mended the Scythe of The Reaper himself.
To avoid bad luck, all Christmas decorations should be taken down by Candlemas (Feb. 2). However, make sure you clean up after them --- every needle left behind in the house from the Christmas tree will cause the sighting of a spirit or a demon in the coming year. (A good case for having an artificial tree!)