Feeling superstitious? The Christmas season is full of myths and superstitions that range from understandable to outrageous. Here are some that surprised us as we were researching various Christmas traditions and how they came about. In most cases, the origin or reasoning behind each superstition can only be guessed at. Some people still take these very seriously, others make it a fun tradition.
Don’t Decorate the Tree Until Christmas Eve
In the early days, evergreen branches were viewed as magical. At a time of year when other trees had no lives and most plants appeared to be dead, evergreens were alive and well. Bringing branches of these trees or the whole tree into the house was believed to be good luck that would help to bring the other plants back to life at the end of winter. But, if the tree was in before the 24th it was believed to be bad luck… that evil spirits would come inside along with the tree.
This superstition may have evolved from an understandable risk of fire. When evergreen branches become dry, they burn quickly and easily. Today, we have a tradition of decorating with candles. In the old days, candles or oil lamps were necessities to keep the house lit. Combine candles or lanterns with a dry tree and you have a real fire risk. Waiting until just before the Christmas celebration to bring in the tree reduced the risk of fire.
Never Give Shoes as a Christmas Present
The superstition is that if you give shoes as a present, the recipient can walk out of your life. How this superstition got started is a mystery of course. But if you think about days gone by, not everyone had good shoes. Few people had more than a single pair. Not having good shoes could have made you stay in an unhappy relationship. Perhaps a man gave his wife a pair of shoes and she left him shortly thereafter simply because she was unhappy and finally had a decent pair of shoes to walk to the nearest town. That could be the source of this superstition.
Hang Your Stockings by the Chimney or You Won’t Get Anything for Christmas
Hanging stockings by the chimney is a well-known tradition that most families with children practice. There are different stories concerning the origin of the tradition. The story “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” is probably what caused the tradition to become widespread, but there is a much older story.
The nearly 2000 year old story is that the original Saint Nicholas, a priest and later a bishop who lived from 270-343AD, felt sorry for three young girls in the parish who were very poor. The girls put their stockings on the hearth of their home, presumably to warm them up for the following day. Saint Nicholas is said to have tossed three coins into the chimney of the home. One coin supposedly ended up in each of the girl’s stockings. The other members of the household had not placed their stockings by the fire and they received nothing.
It is safe to say that all Christmas superstitions and traditions began with some small act that was not particularly memorable. But if you want a visit from St. Nick, you might increase your chances by hanging your stockings over your fireplace.