24 December 2011

24 December - Christmas Eve

Weather:  As it is on SS. Adam and Eve, so it will be until the end of the month, and also will be mostly throughout the next year.

If Christmas Eve is bright and clear, then follows a very fruitful year.

When on Christmas night and evening it is very fair and clear weather, and is without wind and rain, then it is a token that this year will have plenty of wine and fruit.
If it is foul weather and windy, so shall the year be very scant of wine and fruit. [Booooo!]

If the wind should arise at the rising of the sun, then there will be a great dearth of cattle.
If the wind should arise at the setting of the sun, then there will come death to kings and other leaders.

[Looks like we don’t want wind at any price.]

Customs, Traditions, and Superstitions for Christmas Eve:

Since it is unlucky to start decorating the house before Christmas Eve, the greenery for Christmas is brought in today - holly and mistletoe can enter the house (ivy is relegated to decorate the outside pillars), and they can only be brought into the house by men, otherwise bad luck will follow.  [There is no mention of when or by whom Christmas trees and wreaths can be brought in.]

Decorate your bed tonight with a holly spray, or you will be visited with all manner of evil spirits and goblins.

The Yule Log or Christmas Block is also brought in this night, and lit with a piece saved from last year's log.  Traditionally, servants were allowed to have ale with their meals as long as the Yule Log lasted, so you know they found and brought in the LARGEST log possible!  [Unfortunately, this created a huge fire in the fireplace and chimney, and not a few houses were burned down as a result, so choose your Yule Log with an eye to safety.]

An alternative to the Yule log was the large Ashen Faggot, composed of a goodly load of ash sticks or branches hooped around with nine ash withies for bands.  This was placed on the fire at 8 p.m. with much ceremony after which the festivities were allowed to commence.  The young people chose a band to represent them, and the first to crack as it burned pointed to the first to be married.  The bands being green, each one burst open with a loud noise, at which sound all persons present were required to drink a liberal toast of ale (mixed with brandy ‘to elevate the guests’), cider, or something called “egg-hot”, cider or ale heated and mixed with eggs and sugar and sometimes a hard liquor such as rum.  With each burst, the host replenished the glasses, and in between, those so inclined indulged in dancing and games.

It was believed that at midnight, all the animals knelt, the bees sang in their hives and the roosters crowed all night long to welcome Christmas Day.  The animals are given the power of speech at midnight, but do not stay around to listen to them!  To do so is to invite disaster, for, like the principals in the stories related from one generation to the next, you might hear them discussing your upcoming funeral.

If you have a barn, and are of Scandinavian descent, don't forget to leave a nice helping of the rice-pudding from tonight's supper for the Jultomten or Jule-nisse, the red-capped gnome who lives in the hayloft, and looks after the welfare of the farm and household.

It was thought by some that ghosts never appeared on Christmas Eve, as found in Hamlet, when Marcellus says:

"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 can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is that time."

[On the other hand, we have Scrooge’s clanking friend Marley and his spirit trio of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet-to-come.]

Bread baked today will never turn moldy. [I cannot tell you if this is true or not, because home-baked bread doesn’t last long enough to turn moldy.]

Here is a charming custom found in "Sharpe's London Magazine of December 19, 1846":
"Our space will not allow of our descanting upon such Continental customs as appertain to the vigil of the Nativity: one, however, peculiar to Germany, is of too interesting a nature to be passed over without mention.  The children make little presents to their parents, and to each other, and the parents to their children. For three or four months before Christmas the girls are all busy; and the boys save their pocket-money to make or purchase these presents.”  

“Then, on the evening before Christmas-Day, one of the parlours, into which the parents must not go, is lighted up by the children.  A great bough of yew or birch is fastened on the table, at a little distance from the wall; a multitude of little tapers are fixed on the bough, but not so as to burn it till they are nearly consumed; and coloured paper, &c. hangs and flutters from the twigs.  Under this bough the children lay out, in great order, the presents they mean for their parents, still concealing in their pockets what they intend for each other. Then the parents are introduced, and each presents his little gift; they then bring out the remainder, one by one, from their pockets, and present them, with kisses and embraces.” 

“On the next day, in the great parlour, the parents lay on the table the gifts for the children. A scene of sober joy succeeds; as, on this day, after an old custom, the mother tells privately to each of her daughters, and the father to his sons, that which he has observed most praiseworthy, and that which was most faulty, in their conduct."

In many countries, this is the night of celebration, rather than tomorrow.  Church services are early in the evening, followed by a sumptuous supper of traditional dishes.  Then the presents are handed out and opened, and after games and music, the coffee tray appears with cakes and sandwiches.  Christmas Day will be spent quietly with friends and family, wishing to all the joy of the season.

For others, this is a fast day until sundown; the festival dinner and family parties may be held before Midnight Mass, or after, and the parties may go on until dawn. 

Whether you celebrate tonight, or wait until tomorrow, I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

And to all, a Good Night...