22 December 2010

22 December - O Rex Gentium; Christmas Traditions

The antiphon today is O Rex Gentium (O King of the Gentiles)

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti. 

O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! 
O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, 
come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth! 
Many, many moons ago, I found an article titled "Christmas Lore and Legend Around the World".  No idea out of what magazine I tore the page 40 years ago (has it been that long?), but it is still in my Christmas binder, and herewith I post the contents which pertain to Christmas: 

Through the centuries, wherever Christmas is celebrated, each country has inherited its own ancient customs and beliefs - their origins lost in history, but fascinating and often charming to look back on today.  How many of these do you recognize and remember?

* IN SCANDINAVIA, families place all their shoes together on Christmas Day, to insure that they live in harmony throughout the New Year.

* IN DENMARK, some of the bread baked at Christmas is saved until sowing time, then crumbled and mixed with the seed to insure an abundant harvest.

* IN MANY PARTS OF ENGLAND, it is said that bread baked on Christmas Day will never get moldy.  Elsewhere, it is believed that ashes must never be thrown out on Christmas Day for fear they will be thrown in the Savior's face.  Never give fire, matches or light to be taken from the house on Christmas, or trouble will surely follow.  No gift of leather at Christmas will be durable, and wearing new shoes on Christmas brings bad luck.  The young girl who prays to St. Thomas on Christmas Eve with a sprig of holly under her pillow soon finds her true love [beats sleeping with an onion under your pillow on St. Thomas Eve].

* IN THE ANCIENT DUCHY OF SWABIA, girls went to the woodpile on Christmas Eve to draw sticks.  If a girl drew a long one, her future husband would be tall; if a thick one, stout; if a crooked one, he would be deformed.  Hot lead dropped into cold water foretold his occupation; the resulting shape resembled the tools of his trade, as a hammer shape would signify a carpenter and a shoe shape, a cobbler.  Girls formed a circle and let loose a blindfolded goose among them; the girl to whom it went first would be the first bride [have you ever tried to blindfold a goose?  They bite, you know, and I don't think any self-respecting honker is going to be blindfolded without a fight.  And then she's going to be pretty darn mad.  That is one brave circle of girls!].

IN IRELAND, it is believed that the gates of Paradise are always open on Christmas Eve, and no one dying then need enter Purgatory.  An Irish maiden may find her true love by taking four onions on Christmas Day, naming each after a man she knows and placing one in each corner of the room.  The one that first throws a shoot will be named for her future husband.  Never launder a Christmas present before giving it, as this washes out all the good luck.

* IN SPAIN, cows must be treated with special kindness on Christmas because cattle breathed upon the Christ Child and kept him warm.  A washcloth used on Christmas Day to groom the horses will make them grow fat.

* IN ARMENIA, seven is a lucky number for the holiday feast.  Seven kinds of fruit are served, seven kinds of nuts, seven dishes, and water brought at dawn from seven different fountains.

* IN THE NETHERLANDS, it is thought that nothing sown on Christmas Eve will perish, even though the seed be sown in the snow.  Eating a raw egg on Christmas morning gives strength to carry the heaviest weights.  To pick apples or nuts from the ground on Christmas will bring sores.  Take 12 pieces of onion on Christmas Eve.  Put salt on each and give each the name of a month.  The months on which the salt is found wet on Christmas morning will be wet in the New Year, and the others dry.

* IN BOHEMIA, if a wife burns a Christmas cake, she believes she will die within a year.

* IN SWITZERLAND, for a girl to accept a sprig of edelweiss on Christmas is to accept the man who proffers it.

* AND EVERYWHERE, to be filled with age-old spirit of Christmas is to bring happiness and joy to those around us, and the eternal hope of Peace on Earth, good will to men.