Behind the Victory Flagpole – Superstitions here and there


The whole world has their own particular superstitions, as well as we do with our rabbit’s foot, walking under a ladder, or a black cat crossing our path. But during the holiday season superstitions abound.

For instance the Swedes, Norwegians and Danes believed they had elves, dwarfs and gnomes living in their homes–they had white beards and pointed red caps. All year long they hid under the stairs or in the attic, but came out for Christmas. The Swedish elves called Jultomten, and the Norwegian elves called Julenissen, tucked small gifts in odd places around the house. One had to leave them offerings of porridge and milk, even liquor and tobacco, to appease them so they would not cause household mishaps. I just can’t imagine gnomes smoking in my attic or drunk gnomes in my basement.

The Danish elves, Julnissen, simply lurked in the dark areas of the house, assuring themselves that the family was taking proper care of everything.

Another strange thing in pre-Christmas times, a Yule goat was designated to bring gifts in both Sweden and Norway. This was during a mid-winter celebration festival called “Yule.”

Where did all these traditions or superstitions come from? It is said they were derived from pagan European folklore which was blended with Christian beliefs over two millennia. The sources of many are quite obscure, but a few can be traced to specific countries.

For instance in Germany a pickle was hidden deep in the boughs of a Christmas tree. The one who found it got a gift. Why not just get the pickle?

Here are more odd superstitions:

In Greece – if you burn your old shoes during the Christmas season it will prevent misfortune in the coming year. But in England if you wear new shoes on Christmas day it will bring bad luck. Also if you eat plum pudding on Christmas Day it assures you will have a friend for the coming year.

In Germany – Any dream experienced during the 12 nights of Christmas will come true. Also (beware) a child born during the 12 nights of Christmas may become a werewolf!

In Switzerland – Any woman accepting edelweiss (a flower) at Christmas also accepts the man who presents it.

In Scandinavia – If you place your shoes side-by-side on Christmas Eve it will prevent family quarrels.

In Sweden – If a cock crows until dawn on Christmas Day trolls will roam the land.

In the Czech Republic – The shape of a piece of wood blindly drawn from a woodpile predicts the physical makeup of a girl’s husband. If a girl taps on a hen house door and a rooster crows she will wed the coming year. If a hen clucks she must wait another year. Also if an unmarried woman lies on the floor on New Year’s Eve and tosses her shoe backward over her head, the direction of the toe points in the direction from which her future husband will come.

Another superstition – If the first person to visit your house on New Year’s Day is a man the entire year will be plentiful; the opposite if the visitor is a woman!

Oh well it’s all in fun! I would rather stick to the rabbit’s foot, the ladder and the black cat. But true confession – I do have elves and gnomes hidden all over my back yard!


Note: Taken from The Christmas Encyclopedia by William D. Crump. And thanks to Suzanne Tofley for the use of her picture.