Special Christmas Edition
In honor of Christmas and of the forgotten Chicago residents of Czech/Slovak/Bohemian descent, many of whose true-life stories populate “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” this week’s blog will include a round-up of intriguing Czech Christmas customs:
- No lights should be lit in the house before the first star comes out. After it does, dinner is served.
- The table should be set for an even number of guests. An odd number brings bad luck or death.
- No one should sit with their back to the door.
- No one should ever get up from the Christmas table before dinner is finished. Doing so brings bad luck and death in the family. Also, the first person to leave the table after dinner will be the first one to die in the coming year, which is why everyone should get up from the table at the same time.
- Any leftovers from dinner (crumbs, fish bones, etc.) should be buried around the trees to ensure they will bear lots of fruit.
Foretelling the Future:
- The Floating of Walnut Shells: Little boats are made out of empty walnut shells and each family member places a little burning candle into a shell. Everyone’s shells are then floated on a bowl of water. If the shell makes it across the bowl, its owner will live a long and healthy life. A shell that sinks brings bad luck to its owner.
- The Cutting of the Apple: After Christmas dinner, every person present at the table cuts an apple in half (crosswise, from the stem down). Both halves are shown to everyone around the table. If the core is shaped as a star, it means that everyone will get together next year in happiness and health. A four-pointed cross is a bad omen and means that someone at the table will fall ill or die within a year.
- Cherry Tree Twigs: On December 4, St. Barbara’s Day, an unmarried girl is supposed to cut a twig off of a cherry tree and put it in water. If the twig blooms by Christmas Eve, the girl will marry within a year.
- The Throwing of the Shoe: An unmarried girl is supposed to throw a shoe over her shoulder and towards the door. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing towards the door, the girl will marry within a year.
- The Shaking of the Elder Tree: An unmarried girl is supposed to shake an elder tree and if a dog barks, she will marry a man who lives in the direction from which the dog bark came.
Other Christmas Superstitions:
- He who fasts all day until dinner will see the golden piglet on the wall.
- After Christmas dinner, no field is to be crossed until the midnight mass. He who does so will die within a year.
- He who fails to give a present on Christmas Eve will be met with poverty.
- A pregnant woman will know whether she is carrying a boy or a girl once the first Christmas Eve visitor enters the house. If the visitor is female, for example, the baby will be a daughter.
- Fish scales should be placed under Christmas dinner plates or under the tablecloth to bring wealth to the house. Carrying a fish scale in a wallet all year will ensure that money will not run out.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2016!