Tis the season to dust off favorite blogs of Christmases past (or it is if you're working on a deadline...). For anyone who might have caught this one a couple years ago, hope you enjoy it a second time!
As you know, I just can’t resist anything related to the paranormal. But Christmas? Who would have suspected that there was anything supernatural about such a warm fuzzy holiday? I mean, a big jolly fellow travels all over the world with his flying reindeer in a single night, squeezes down tiny chimneys with a neverending bag of presents, knows if you’re naughty or nice but is never seen himself… Come to think of it, that IS pretty paranormal!
I had a lot of fun researching Christmas superstitions and I was amazed by how MANY there were! In fact, there’s so much material I’ve decided to blog twice about this topic. Here then is the first installment. (By the way, here's the official disclaimer -- Remember, these are folktales and traditions, and not intended to be taken as truth!)
Unmarried girls can cut a twig from a cherry tree on St. Barbora’s Day (Dec. 4th) and put it in water. If it blooms by Christmas Eve, marriage will follow within the year. Counting the stars on Christmas Eve will foretell the number of sheaves in your harvest. And if you see the sun shining through the limbs of the apple trees on Christmas Day, there’ll be an abundance of fruit the following year.
If you dream on any of the 12 nights between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan. 6), your dreams will come true in the next year. The first person in the household to hear a rooster crow or anyone who hears a cricket chirp on Christmas Day is going to have a very lucky year. Good luck follows those who give money to the poor on Christmas Day, to those who eat their breakfast by candlelight, and to those who stir the Christmas pudding.
Bad, bad fortune follows those who leave the dishes unwashed on Christmas Eve (and that’s on top of what Mom will do to you!). On Christmas Day, it’s unlucky to leave the dinner table before everyone has finished. A full moon on Christmas predicts a scanty harvest in the year to come. If Christmas Day falls on a Thursday, a year of windy weather is forecast.
On Christmas Eve it’s said that you can hear the bells of lost churches that have been covered by floods or buried by landslides and earthquakes. Picking up nuts or fruit from the ground will bring bad luck. So will sending carolers away without treats or money. And you really don’t want to be the first one home from church!
And the Scary….
A piece of winter greenery (holly, mistletoe, evergreen, etc.) must be brought into your home during the Christmas season, to keep away evil spirits. However, every winter leaf left in the house after Candlemas (Feb. 2) will result in the sighting of a ghost, or perhaps even a death in the house during the coming year! Mistletoe must be burned, or those who kissed beneath it will become enemies.
Those born on Christmas Day are rumored to be able to see ghosts and spirits. And those who are born on Christmas Eve are said to turn into ghosts themselves on that day every year! (Wow, this sounds more like Halloween, doesn’t it?) The only way to avoid this odd fate is to remain awake the entire night until Christmas Day dawns.
That's all for this post. Watch for more on Christmas superstitions!
|-- Mistletoe is the official state flower of Oklahoma! --|
Today we use mistletoe as a Christmas decoration (and occasionally steal a kiss under it). But mistletoe has a much longer history than Christmas itself.
Mistletoe is unusual in the plant world because it doesn’t grow in the earth at all. Instead, it’s an aerial parasite that lives only in the boughs of trees. This uncommon plant not only remains green throughout the winter, but produces its pure white berries right around the time of the winter solstice.
The ancient Celts believed mistletoe to be a sacred gift from the gods. The Romans recorded that the Celts would harvest mistletoe from a tree after the winter solstice. A druid – a Celtic priest – used a golden sickle to cut the plant. It was vital that the mistletoe never come in contact with the ground and so a white cloth was held beneath the tree to catch it. Two white bulls were then sacrificed to honor the god who provided the mistletoe and to petition him to increase the plant’s potency.
The druids were said to be skilled in both herbs and magic, and the mistletoe was one of the most powerful plants in their arsenal. A symbol of immortality, mistletoe was believed to have protective powers against evil spirits and the ability to heal diseases. Although mistletoe is a poisonous plant itself, in skilled hands it was considered to be an antidote to all poisons. It was also used to promote fertility of both animal and human and occasionally even used in aphrodisiac potions. This sacred plant was associated with good fortune and great blessings.
The Norse myth of Baldur takes us to the next phase of mistletoe tradition. The goddess, Frigga, was Baldur’s mother, and exacted a promise from every element, plant and animal, both on the earth and under the earth, not to harm Baldur. She forgot the mistletoe, which grows neither in the ground or on it. Loki, prankster and god of evil, tricked another god into shooting Baldur with an arrow made of mistletoe, which killed him. Fortunately, Balder is eventually brought back to life. His mother is so overcome with joy that she reverses the reputation of the offensive mistletoe, declaring that those who passed beneath a mistletoe plant should have a token kiss and be kept safe from harm.
Centuries later, both Celtic and Viking traditions were condemned by early Christianity as pagan, and mistletoe was forbidden to be displayed within sight of the church. However, that didn’t stop people from hanging mistletoe in their homes and barns or from wearing sprigs of it to ward off disease and evil. Mistletoe became known as All-heal, and is still used in homeopathic medicine.
It wasn’t until Victorian times that the plant’s original status as a symbol of peace and love was revived, and the practice of kissing under the mistletoe was reinstated.
Your turn --- In your wildest fantasy, who would YOU like to meet under the mistletoe?