Christmas Customs and Superstitions

Christmas Customs and Superstitions

December 25th known as the Christmas day, is an annual holiday celebrated by many nations around the world, including some whose populations are mostly non-Christian.  Many have adapted the secular aspects of this major festival and public holiday such as gift-giving, decorations and the Christmas tree (the evergreen pine tree being singled out for this distinction). Present day conservationist attitudes, however, have made artificial trees the choice for many.

Countries in which Christmas is not a formal religious holiday include the Republic of China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, Nepal, Thailand and North Korea.

Christmas celebrations at the beginning were chiefly for commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note however that the historians have placed the actual date of Jesus’ birth, somewhere between 7 and 2 B.C. The Western Christian Church (having adopted the Julian calendar) has determined that Christmas celebrations be held on the December 25 as this also coincides with the Roman winter festival held on the solstice.

Here’s an interesting fact many may not be aware of: the practice of decorating the house at Christmas time is not a Christian tradition at all, but rather a heathen one.  It stems from the feast and the celebration of Saturn, the Roman God who represented Time, which was held in December when the temples were decorated with various green plants, foliage, shrubbery and flowers.  Christians, recognizing the practicality of this, amalgamated the idea of decorations into their own festival.

Here are some other traditions and superstitions worthy of mention:

Holly:  The reason why holly also enjoys the distinction of being the principal decoration stems from the fact that it’s the only bush that bears attractive red berries at this festive time of year.

Mistletoe:  It is considered lucky to hang mistletoe in the house during Christmas.  This superstition has also persevered since pagan times when the Druids venerated this parasitic plant which they had discovered growing on the oak tree.  Because of this pagan association however, mistletoe is excluded from any church decorations. We all know that it is lucky to kiss under the mistletoe and unlucky to deliberately avoid the opportunity.  So you can imagine what a magnet it is at festive gatherings.  The correct way of performing this ritual is for the man to pluck a berry from the mistletoe for each kiss which he gives the girl, stopping only when all the berries are exhausted.  For practicality sake this ritual has never been strictly observed as it would entail replacing the mistletoe after each person takes full advantage of it; instead standing underneath at an appropriate time and securing the kisses from the intended person has come to suffice.

At the conclusion of Christmas festivities, if you wish to avoid ill luck, make sure that all your Christmas decorations are cleared and stored away for the next year before  the Twelfth Night (January 5).

Here is a delightful holiday superstition that everyone will enjoy:  hide several Christmas charms, including a ring and some lucky coins, in the Christmas pudding or cake. The lucky coins are popularly sought after but it is the one who retrieves the ring who will be the first to be married. Furthermore it is said that if a person walks up to the bed backwards and places a piece of the Christmas cake under the pillow then their dreams during that night will be of his or her future spouse.

Are you interested in spells? Well, here are few Christmas matrimonial spells that have been handed down from generation to generation:

-Take three leaves of holly and on them scratch the initials of three of your admirers. On Christmas Eve place the leaves under your pillow, and it is said that the one whom you will marry will appear to you in your dream that night.

-Sew nine holly-leaves on to your night attire, borrow a wedding-ring and place it on the third finger of your left hand, and then retire to bed.  During the night, your spouse to be will appear to you in a dream or vision.

-Make a chain or necklace of holly, mistletoe and juniper and in between each link tie an acorn. You must have two other persons of your same gender assist you in doing this. As the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve the three of you must go into a room where a fire is lit, lock the door, hang the key over the mantelpiece and open wide the window. Wrap this chain round a log and sprinkle it with oil, a dash of salt and some earth.  Then place the log and the chain on the fire and extinguish all lights in the room. The three should then sit round the fire with a prayer-book opened at the marriage service upon your knees.  As soon as the chain has been burnt, it is said that each person will then see the vision of future spouse crossing the room. The absence of this predicts that that the initiates are not to marry; or if they see a phantom, such as a skeleton, which causes fear, it denotes that they will remain forever single.

– Tie a twig of holly to each leg of your bedstead, and before you retie eat a roast apple. Traditionally your future spouse will come and speak to you in your dreams.

Yule-log: The burning of Yule-log in a fireplace at Christmas is another custom enjoyed by many.  According to an old tradition, it should be lit by a piece of the log used the previous Christmas.  It is believed that no evil spirit can then enter into the house.  The remains of the Yule-log were also considered particularly lucky, and if kept in the home would be a protection against a fire.

In certain parts of France they believe that if the ashes of Yule-log is scattered over the fields it will prevent the crops from rotting that year.  The ashes of Yule-log are believed to have other practical applications such as being a cure for chilblains and swollen glands.

Finally, we remain grateful for this festive tradition that brings out the best in every man, women, and child, that brightens up the dark cold days of the winter months, especially that shortest of days- the 21st of December.  Our hearts and souls become light and we are immersed in acts of generosity, gift giving, music, and the exchange of Christmas greetings. We revel in the decorated Christmas trees, coloured lights, garlands, mistletoe, holly and that special meal shared by family and friends. Let us not forget Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, beloved by all the children young and old as the bringer of joy (and gifts) to delight us all.

Merry Christmas to All



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