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HOLIDAY MAGIC  by Editor 1/1/2015 at 14:22

Is There Magic in Your Holidays?

Image for Is There “Magic” in Your Holidays?

by Phyllis Kennemer

Long before there was a holiday called Christmas or a month named December, ancient people held festivals and performed rituals in midwinter. They built great fires of fallen trees and lit candles to provide light and warmth during the long winter nights. These ceremonies honored the life-giving essence of the sun. The people wore colorful costumes, performed wild dances, and played noisy games in an effort to attract the sun’s attention and remind it to shine longer and brighter in the coming days.

Ancient cultures endeavored to live in harmony with nature. In those days the sun and moon, fire and water, flora and fauna were accorded religious respect. People believed they were a part of the whole of creation; therefore, their actions influenced the changing of the seasons and the productivity of trees and crops. Appeasing good spirits and banishing evil spirits were necessary parts of life. People felt responsible for producing their own good or bad luck.

Thousands of years later, numerous ancient beliefs live on as superstitions, the origins of which having long been forgotten. Some superstitions are such an integral part of our lives and language that we don’t give them a second thought. People automatically knock on wood, cross fingers, avoid black cats, and walk around ladders. Superstitions are worldwide and inherent in all peoples; they represent universal forms of fear, avoidance and remedial measures.

All superstitions have their origins in spiritual beliefs and contain magical elements. They include divinations, spells, charms, cures, omens, rituals and taboos.

The line between religious beliefs and superstitions is not well defined and varies among individual groups. Most Christian churches, for example, consider the ancient rituals and practices of prehistoric people as pagan and have labeled them as superstitions. Some members of Protestant Churches consider the rituals of the Catholic Church, such as baby christenings, making the sign of the cross, and censing the worship space with incense to be superstitions. Indeed, many atheists deem that any belief in God or a Higher Being is a superstition. It’s easy to confuse customs with superstitions. All superstitions have roots in basic beliefs and practices, while customs are simply traditions associated with the holidays. For some, the baking of a Christmas cake is associated with good or bad luck and is therefore superstitious. For others a special cake recipe has been passed down through the generations and baking the cake is a Christmas custom.

The celebration of the New Year is the oldest and most universal of all festivals. Christmas celebrations were integrated into these ancient rituals as the centuries progressed. Superstitions relating to the holiday season abound. Many have their roots in ancient midwinter rituals. Others date back to medieval times and are influenced by Christian beliefs connected with the birth of Jesus. Beliefs and their accompanying superstitions represent humanity’s deepest concerns. They are intended to demonstrate that life is victorious and death is defeated.

Christmas Superstitions

• Bake Christmas bread by the light of the moon on Christmas Eve after the sun has gone down. If the dough rises high, a lucky year will follow.

• At midnight on Christmas Eve open the front door to let in the good luck. Open the back door so the bad luck will go out.

• Eat an apple at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve and you won’t catch a cold during the coming year.

• If all the members of the family line their shoes in a row before going to bed on Christmas Eve, there will be no fighting in the year ahead.

• If your dog howls on Christmas Eve, it is a sign that he will go crazy in the New Year, so be kind to your dog.

• Ring bells loudly on Christmas Day to scare away bad luck.

• Cakes baked on Christmas morning have special virtues. They never go moldy. If kept until dry, the powdered crumbs placed in hot water have healing qualities.

• Christmas cake crumbs mixed with soil produce abundant plants.

• If you get sunburn on your nose at Christmas, you will burn your toe at Easter.

• Do not give anything in the house away on Christmas Day, such as money, food, or wood, unless someone brings something into the house first. Otherwise, good luck will go out with the gift.

• Never wash a Christmas present before you give it to somebody or you will wash away the good luck.

• Hug an apple tree on Christmas Day so it will wake up and bear fruit in the spring.

• March into an orchard and surround an apple tree, chant a verse of wassail, and throw cider over the tree to assure a good harvest.

• Bury the bones from the Christmas roast under a fruit tree and it will bear lots of fruit.

• Place holly on a beehive and the bees will hum Christmas carols.

• A windy Christmas is a sign of good luck.

The Yule Log

• On Christmas Eve the Yule Log is placed in a large fireplace indoors or a fire pit outside and lit with a piece from the previous year’s log. If the log burns continuously until Twelfth Night, good luck will come in the New Year.

• Honor the log by placing greenery and ribbons on it. These decorations may symbolize mistakes and bad choices made during the past year. The flames will wipe these errors away allowing people to start the New Year with a clean slate.

• Keep the remains of the log in the house to protect it from lightening and fire during the coming year.

• When visiting a house with a Yule Log burning, tip your hat to the log as a sign of respect and it will grant good fortune.

New Year’s Eve

• Step outside at midnight on New Year’s Eve and bang spoons against pans. The loud noise will scare away the evil spirits lurking in the shadows.

• Scare the evil demons away with fireworks (combines both fire and noise).

• Hide some money outside your home on New Year’s Eve (preferably silver). Bring it into the house first thing on New Year’s Day to assure wealth for the year.

• Put a piece of bread outside the house on New Year’s Eve. Take it inside the next morning to ensure health, wealth, and happiness for the New Year.

• If the wind blows from the south on New Year’s Eve, crops will be abundant.

• If the wind blows from the east on New Year’s Eve, fruit trees will bear well.

• It is good luck to dream about eggplant on New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Day

• Whatever you do on New Year’s Day serves as a sign for what you will be doing during the coming year.

• Empty pockets or empty cupboards portend a coming year of lack. Greeting the New Year with money in your pocket and food in your cupboard assures abundance.

• Pay all bills before New Year’s Day. If you owe money you will be in debt throughout the year.

• Eat lucky foods on New Year’s Day, such as black-eyed peas, cabbage, spinach and grapes. Eating green fruits and vegetables will bring money in the coming year.

• Do not give or throw anything away on New Year’s Day or good luck will leave with it.

• Make a wish on the first white horse you see and your wish will come true.

• For good luck the first person to enter the house on New Year’s Day must be a tall man with lots of dark hair. (Called First Footers, some tall dark haired men earned good money going from house to house immediately after midnight during the 13th to 19th centuries.)

Dr. Phyllis K. Kennemer is a Certified Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator. She is a life-long learner and educator with a specialty in children’s literature.

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