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Christmas Omens and Superstitions by Milton Goldsmith 1918
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A festival corresponding to Christmas was held in Rome in honor of Bacchus, but with the advent of Christianity it changed its character and was solemnized to celebrate the birth of Christ. Many of the old pagan rites and superstitions still remain.
Mistletoe was held in high esteem by the druids and regarded with religious superstition. They used it in their incantations. It is used for decorating during Christmas, and is usually hung from the chandeliers.
A girl standing under a piece of mistletoe may be kissed by any man who finds her there. If she refuses to be kissed, she invites bad luck. If she be kissed seven times in one day, she will marry one of the lucky fellows within a year.
In olden days mistletoe was laid on the altars in churches as an emblem of the grace of the Savior, and betokened a prosperous year.
In York, England, mistletoe is laid upon the altar of the cathedral and the priest proclaims freedom to all wicked souls.
Evergreen leaves and boughs are also a relic of paganism, and are supposed to bring cheer and luck.
The Christmas tree is a survival of northern mythology and was first made popular in Scandinavian countries when they adopted Christianity. It symbolizes the ever green and abiding power of salvation.
Christmas candles probably had their origin in the Jewish festival of lights (Chanuca), which occurs at the same time. Lights are lit for seven days to commemorate the victories of the Maccabbees.
Yule logs are large logs of wood that are thrown into the grate to make the Christmas eve more festive. The flame is supposed to keep out evil influences. Christmas candles serve the same end.
To see a familiar face in the blaze of a yule log, betokens an early marriage with the person thus seen.
To become engaged on Christmas eve, is a sure sign of a happy married life.
A child born on Christmas day will be free from care and very lucky.
St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus is the patron saint of Christmas. He is supposed to come down the chimney with his pack on his back and distribute toys and gifts to old and young. The only way to secure his favor is to be good and obedient.
Kris Kringle is another name for Santa Claus. It is derived from the German "Krist Kindli" or Christ Child. He is represented as entering homes and making children happy on the "Holy Night."
From Benjamin Thorpe 1851
From Christmas day till New Year's day nothing that runs round may be set in motion; there must, consequently, be neither spinning nor winding.
On Christmas night at midnight the cattle rise in their stalls.
If, when sitting at table on Christmas eve, you wish to know whether any of those present will die before the next Christmas, go out silently and peep through one of the window panes: the person who appears sitting at table without a head, will die in the following year.
At a party it is not good for thirteen to sit down to table; for then one of them must die before a year is over.
To cut one's nails on a Friday brings luck.
In Anspach, when on Christmas or New Year's eve the candles of a Christmas tree are lighted, a person has only to observe the shadows of those present, to discover who will die in the coming year: in the shadow they will appear without heads.
Shakespeare on Christmas:
"Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stay abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, no witch hath power to charm;
So hallowed and so holy is the time."