Archive for the ‘lore’ Tag

12-11-2013 More Christmas & Kwanza Factoids   Leave a comment

I wonder about Christmas sometimes.  We know it wasn’t the actual day that Christ was born and we’re pretty sure the entire story was made up well after the fact by people who weren’t even there.  Yet it remains the ultimate religious observance except maybe for Easter where religion has slowly faded into the background.  As always I have a lot of questions and felt  the need to search out some answers.  Unfortunately there are as many answers as there are versions of the original story.  Here’s a few that I found.

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Why are there Twelve Days of Christmas?

Traditionally, it took the ‘Three Kings’ this number of days to find the baby Jesus. Their arrival on the twelfth day was celebrated in the form of the Feast of Epiphany in medieval France, and later in other countries.

Where did the Candy Cane come from?

In a small Indiana town, there was a candy maker who wanted to spread the name of Jesus around the world. He invented the Christmas Candy Cane, incorporating symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy to symbolize the Virgin Birth. The candy maker formed the stick into a “J” to represent the name of Jesus or it can also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd.” He thought the candy was too plain so he stained it with a red stripe to symbolize the blood shed by Christ on the cross.

Weird Christmas Games

Shoe the Wild Mare

Shoeing the Wild Mare is a traditional Christmas game that goes back to at least the early 17th century. Get a narrow(a few inches wide),strong wooden beam and suspend it from the roof with two even length ropes. The beam is the ‘mare’ of the title and should be level yet high enough above the floor so that a player’s feet are off-ground. A player ‘the farrier’ then sits on the ‘mare’ in the center, a leg on either side. This player has a hammer and has to give the underside of the beam “four time eight blows” at a designated spot. If he falls off, it is someone else’s turn. Much hilarity, and the odd broken shoulder ensues.

Snapdragons

Apparently this is the best game ever to play on Christmas Eve. Make sure you have the fire department on speed dial though. Very popular from the 16th to the 19th centuries, Snapdragons  has explicably declined in popularity.

Gather everyone around the dining room table, place a large flat dish in the center. In the dish scatter a good handful of raisins then pour on top a layer of brandy or cognac. Set fire to the brandy and dim the lights. Players take turns  plucking a raisin out of the burning liquid and eating it quickly. For a more competitive edge to the game use larger dried fruit such as apricots, one of which has a lucky coin stuffed inside.

Equipment needed: plate, matches, raisins, brandy, and the address of nearest fire department.

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I could easily have added another fifty items even more stupid than these but life’s too short.  I’ve decided that every story  about Christmas and every weird tradition that’s been adopted any where on the planet is nothing more than a large steaming pile.  I give up.  When it comes right down to it Christmas is no more legitimate than Kwanza.  I’d love to be around in a hundred years or so to see what Kwansa morphs into.  They’ll always be a herd of idiots who’ll believe almost anything they’re told by just about anyone.  I wonder if this country will ever be invaded by Kwanza believers with bombs strapped to their chests, angry that their religion is being disrespected.  It could happen.  I’m also glad I won’t be here to see it.

MERRY EFFING KWANZA

10-22-2013   4 comments

Are you superstitious?  Do you believe that by doing something in particular bad things could happen. Or maybe even good things? It seems that in every community, state, and country there are hundreds of these ridiculous  superstitions passed down from generation to generation. "Step on a crack and break your mother’s back" was one of the ones I specifically remember from my childhood.  It had been jumping over and walking around sidewalk cracks for years and I’m still not sure why.

Like I didn’t have other things to worry about at that age. My concerns at that time were how to meet girls, how to get a date, acne, and will I play well in the big game tomorrow. Instead I was worried about walking under ladders, seeing black cats or breaking a mirror.  Why?  No one seems to know why we’re loaded up with all this nonsense at such an early age by both family and friends who are supposed to care about us.  It’s just crazy.

I’m going to supply you with a short list of some of the good old standby’s and then a second shorter list of some odd ones from around the world.

  • Two people breaking a wishbone is said to lead to good luck for the person with the larger piece.
  • Opening an umbrella indoors is said to result in 21 days of bad luck. Some traditions hold that it is only bad luck if the umbrella is placed over the head of someone while indoors.
  • If one walks underneath an open ladder it is said to bring bad luck. Sometimes it is said that this can be undone by immediately walking backwards back underneath the ladder.
  • Breaking a mirror is said to bring bad luck for 7 years. To "undo" this, take the shards of glass and bury them underneath the moonlight. In ancient times, the mirror was said to be a window to the viewer’s soul.
  • The superstitious symbolism of a black cat crossing one’s path is dependent upon culture: some cultures consider this a sign of impending bad luck, while some cultures consider this a sign of impending good luck.
  • Once a wedding ring has been placed on the finger, it is considered bad luck to remove it.
  • At times, a horseshoe may be found above doorways. When positioned like a regular ‘U’ it supposedly collects luck. However, when it is positioned like an upside-down ‘U’ the luck supposedly drains.
  • Many believe that if all of the candles on a birthday cake are blown out with one breath, while making a silent wish, the wish will come true.
  • When you speak of bad luck, it is said that one should always knock on wood. Also knocking when speaking of good luck apparently helps with having good luck. This is an old Celtic tradition related to belief of wood spirits.
  • If you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn you will not catch a cold all winter.
  • It’s bad luck to leave a house through a different door than the one used to come in.
  • An acorn should be carried to bring luck and ensure a long life.

 

  • Pirates around the world believed that piercing the ears with such precious metals as silver and gold improved one’s eyesight.
    Amber beads, worn as a necklace, can protect against illness or cure colds.
  • There are numerous sailors’ superstitions, such as: it is considered bad luck for a ship to set sail on a Friday, to bring anything blue aboard, to stick a knife into the deck, to leave a hatch cover upside-down, to say "pig", or to eat walnuts aboard, and to sail with a woman on board.
  • In Russia it is believed that before traveling a person should, apparently, sit on their luggage.
  • In Sweden it is believed that if you collect seven or nine different flowers on midsummer eve and place them under your pillow, you will dream of your future spouse.
  • It is bad luck in Great Britain to put new shoes on a bed or a table (this comes from the tradition of dressing a corpse in new clothes and shoes and laying them out so everyone can give their respects).
  • Placing keys on a table in Sweden is considered unlucky.
  • Placing a hat on the bed is, apparently, bad luck in certain European countries.
  • In some parts of England, rum is used to wash a baby’s head for good luck.
  • According to an age old custom, carrying a dead shrew in your pocket wards off rheumatism.

Just to be on the safe side you should write these all down and take time to memorize them.  Then when the time is right pass them on to your children and grandchildren.  It’s only fair that we do our part in keeping these really stupid traditions alive. 

Someday when you have a free moment take a seat near a sidewalk and relax with a hot cup of coffee.  Then watch the passers-by and see how many refuse to step on the sidewalk cracks.  You’ll be amazed.

10-12-2013   Leave a comment

For most of my life I’ve had older people telling me things that I had a hard time believing.  Growing up in western Pennsylvania put me in contact with many people with their genealogical roots in eastern Europe.  I wasn’t more than seven or eight when a elderly neighbor lady who spoke broken English told me to wear cloves of garlic around my neck to ward off evil spirits.  It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered she was an immigrant from Romania where they have a history of evil beings and Vlad the Impaler

Old wives tales are present in every society it seems and have been passed down through the generations as being the gospel truth.  When I lived in Korea I found out the best way to insure a safe pregnancy was to hang a strand of charcoal pieces over the doorway to your home.  I thought it was nonsense but after a group of elderly Korean ladies threatened me with bodily harm, I just smiled and got out of their way.  They put the charcoal in place and there was once again peace in the valley.

Here’s an interesting collection of “Old Wives Tales” for you women out there.  I can’t verify that they’re true or that they actually work but I can guarantee that somewhere out there are a few Old Wives who believe it.

  • If you happen to step on a man’s toes, whether dancing or in a crowd, it is the man you’ll marry. So the next time you step on a man’s toes, take a real good look at him, you just might be looking The One.
  • Eve didn’t have any choice as to who she gave the apple to. But before you give your apple away, try this. Cut it in half and put all the seeds in a pan on the stove. Name each seed after a man you know. Then quickly heat the pan. The first seed to pop will reveal the name of the man for you.
  • A woman who puts on a bridal veil and holds orange blossoms on any occasion, but not her own wedding, will never marry.
  • If you are young woman make a pie. While trimming the pie crust, if it falls over your hand, that is a sign you will marry young.
  • If a woman braids her hair and leaves out a strand, it is a sign she will marry within the year.
  • If there are many men in your life and you wonder which one you’ll marry, take 12 slips of paper and write on each slip the name of one of the men. Place the 12 slips into an envelope and sleep with it under your pillow. Each morning draw one slip from the envelope at random. Rip it up and toss it away. The last slip of paper in the envelope is the name of the man you will marry.
  • If you have a man in your life and you want him to remain interested in you and to pop the big question, never let him carry your comb in his pocket.
  • A woman who makes a good looking bed will have a good looking husband. And a woman who has an unkempt bed will have someone else’s husband.
  • If you haven’t met Mr. Right yet, but want to see his face, follow these steps. Find a well. Make sure it’s not covered so that you can actually look down into it and see the water. On the night of the full moon, toss a penny into the well. The face you see at the bottom of the well is the man you’ll marry.

Unfortunately ladies most of you will one day be an Old Wife. I’m supplying you with these tales so you’ll have something to pass along to your daughters. It’s your motherly responsibility to keep this tradition alive. Every generation has the right to hear this nonsense and then to pass it along to their daughters.  It keeps life interesting.

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