Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy Old Christmas!

The period between Christmas (December 25) and Epiphany (January 6) represents the Twelve Days of Christmas. Historically, there are many superstitions and traditions associated with this time. The spirit world was supposed to be particularly active during this dark and cold time of year, so there were many ways to ward them off.

People believed that ancestral ghosts would pay a visit during this time. When they visited, they might cause mischief around the house, so you wanted to be sure and clean and straighten the house so that the spirits would have little to tinker with.  Anything that runs round should never be set in motion during this time.  No threshing should be done during the Twelve Days.

The period was also a time when all work, except for the most necessary, was put aside and it was a time of feasting and fun.  Women would put aside their spinning, because if any flax were to be left on the distaff, the devil might come and cut it.  In some European countries, there was a spirit who would visit at this time and she was said to punish girls who left their flax unspun on the distaff.

January 6 is Epiphany.  The eve of Epiphany, is believed to be the night, over 2000 years ago, when the Three Wise Men came to Bethlehem to honor the Christ child.  One old belief associated with Old Christmas Day is that you should never lend anything because you will never get it back. This is also the night when people believed that flowers would bloom, bees would hum Christmas songs, and animals would kneel and pray at midnight. I don't think that any of that happened here last night, but then again, I was snuggled up under a pile of quilts, sound asleep!

In the mountains, there is an old tradition called "Breaking Up Christmas."  Since the time between Christmas and Epiphany was a time of visiting, feasting, and dancing, it all had to come to an end eventually, so they would have "Breaking up Christmas parties.   There is a great traditional tune called "Breaking Up Christmas".  

I love the idea of celebrating for twelve days, so I always leave my holiday decorations up until after Old Christmas Day.


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