Posts Tagged ‘customs

12
Nov
20

Friday the 13th and Superstions

When I was growing up… step on a crack – break your mother’s back, lucky rabbit’s foot, a 4 leaf clover, wish upon a shooting star, and crossing your fingers were the most common superstitions that I remember. As a young child, these were not known as superstitions but just part of my culture – like covering your mouth when you yawned or saying excuse me if you interrupted or bumped someone.

Of course, having a black cat cross your path or walking under a ladder were known, and growing up in a ranching community, a lucky horseshoe was very common!

I didn’t know it, but saying “God Bless You” or “Gesundheit” when someone sneezes is also a sign of superstition – it was originally said so the devil doesn’t steal the person’s soul, now just a wish of Good Health.

Since it’s Friday the 13th, I thought I’d tell you about some other superstitions that I’ve learned about over the years.

Don’t go to the barber or hair salon tomorrow – it’s thought to be unlucky to cut your hair on Friday the 13th! Apparently, you shouldn’t cut your hair or nails on any night. Pirates felt it was unlucky to ever cut their hair, or their fingernails.

Sailors had/have many superstitions – one of them is to never set sail on a Friday. This apparently applies to any travel! Uh-oh weekend travelers, misfortune may occur…

If you do happen to be a sailor, or you’re embarking on a boat trip or cruise, be sure to board with your right foot first! Left foot first is considered unlucky – BUT, if you happen to be in France, it’s lucky to step in dog poo with your left foot – where do these things come from?!

Did you know that “knock on wood” came from the good luck fact that good spirits live in trees?

Itchy palms indicate that you have money coming your way, but did you know that an itchy right elbow signifies exciting news and if the left one itches, expect the opposite!

If your nose itches inside, trouble might be heading your way, but an outside itch symbolizes that someone, or something annoying is coming.

Did you ever get a chain letter? I remember a few when they were common – you must send this on to 10 others or the chain will be broken and you’ll have the bad luck!

We often hear of celebrities or sports idols wearing certain pieces of clothing, or colors for luck. Some folks wear or carry charms of sorts to help them along the way. I recently learned that carrying a cod head bone in your pocket is good luck – 2 from the same head is even better!

Does that sound strange? What about the wishbone from a turkey or chicken – the large end gets the wish when it’s pulled apart. Another one from childhood that I’d forgotten about!

When you wake up in the morning, remember to get out on the “right” side of the bed, so you’ll be assured of having a great day – Sleep Tight, Don’t let the Bed Bugs Bite! Oh, that’s for another post…

29
Jul
20

Ghost Storytelling around the world

I learned something interesting the other day – something I kind of knew, but it inspired me to do a little more research.

Ghost storytelling around the world is very different!

I learned that now, mid-summer, is the most common time for ghost stories in Japan! Dating back to ancient times, it is believed that during summer the souls of the dead temporarily come back to this world. These spirits would include your ancestors, but also those who had no relatives praying for them as well as vengeful ghosts.

In some households the traditional custom of greeting your ancestors with a welcoming fire or altar is still practiced. Also during this summer season, ghost stories are told and plays are performed with themes developed from village folklore of unusual, other worldly stories.

The season is symbolized by these events used for interacting with the spirits of ancestors and taking pity on the unhappy souls. They say that telling the chilling tales also helps people to cool off in the summer heat.

This is similar to the Ghost Festival in China and some other East Asian countries. It is held on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. The seventh month is generally regarded as the Ghost Month. At this time the deceased are thought to visit their living relatives.

Many cultural traditions are honored during the Ghost Festival. These can include preparing food offerings and having elaborate meals with empty seats for the visiting ghosts. Incense is burned to pay respects and sometimes paper boats or lanterns are released to guide any lost spirits.

Hawaiian culture also uses lunar phases to base their ghostly activities on. “Marchers of the Night,” spirits of ancient Hawaiian warriors, appear at sunset during these specific times, usually around the new moon, and march from their burial sites to battlefields or other sacred areas.

The Nightwatchers arrival is announced with the beating of drums and blowing of conch shells. The warriors are carrying torches so they are usually seen from afar. Often fog, thunderstorms or high winds accompany them.

There are no festivals or celebrations surrounding the Nightwatchers; in fact, it is quite the opposite. No one should look at, or be seen by these warriors, according to Hawaiian legends. If a mortal should be accidently in the area, they should lie face down on the ground, motionless, to show proper respect and deference.

Hawaiian history, rich in mythology and folklore, is full of supernatural entities so the Nightwatchers are not the only ghosts of the islands.

I knew that in Victorian England, telling spooky stories around Christmas time was very common – I often hold some storytelling presentations during the holidays – but why is this?

The Winter Solstice, the longest and darkest day of the year occurs just days before Christmas and is a harbinger of the end, or death, of the year.

Many people focus on those no longer with us during the holidays and it makes sense to think that during this dark time of change to the new year that the dead might have a closer connection with the living.

Inuit stories are full of ghosts, monsters, shapeshifters and other paranormal entities. These tales are told year-round, day or night, by the elders of the community and are used as lessons for the children.

Also based on oral history, Jamaican Duppies often manifest in the form of a relative, and like Inuit folklore, are always present.

A Duppy may also manifest as a shadow, animal or material object so it is hard to know when one is present, though they only come at night. Here are a few ways to tell – if you smell food but there is none in the area, if you hear a stick break, if a dog whines or howls, if you have a spider web in your face.

Duppies are restless spirits and usually malevolent. They can be controlled in various ways which often involves using their grave dirt. They are said to live in bamboo thickets and the roots of cotton trees.

Here in the U.S., in spite of my line of work, telling ghost stories year-round, ghosts are generally thought of around Halloween, or All Hallows Eve.

The Halloween tradition stems from Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival held during harvest when people would wear costumes and light bonfires to ward off ghosts.

Other All Hallows’ Eve traditions can include lighting candles on graves, attending church, lighting jack-o-lanterns and eating certain vegetarian foods such as apples, potato pancakes or soul cakes.

Over the years, Halloween has become a time for trick-or-treating, parties and telling ghost stories. It is only about 3 months away, in case you’re counting!

14
Nov
19

National Pickle Day

google eyes

Well, who knew, but I guess there’s a National Day for almost everything! I do love dill pickles, but I’m writing today because of a historical connection.

Half of my heritage is German, on my mother’s side, and I grew up in a German settled community in Nevada, now living in a German settled community in Maine.

Apparently there is a German custom of hanging a pickle ornament on your Christmas tree – the very last ornament to go on. This glass pickle ornament is supposed to be hung deep within the branches of the tree and a contest ensues as to who will be the first to spot it.

The first adult to spot it is guaranteed good luck for the following year, while the first child to spot it on Christmas morning gets an extra gift, something special from St. Nick.

I did not hear of this tradition until fairly recently and was a little puzzled that I hadn’t, given my background as well as having traveled in Germany several times in my life and knowing several German exchange students during my high school years.

In my house the star on top of the tree was always the last to go on! We didn’t have any tradition even close to the pickle and none of the German neighbors, church members, etc. practiced it.

Well, come to find out, no one in Germany does it either! Here is a link to an article that sums it all up pretty well – https://www.german-way.com/history-and-culture/holidays-and-celebrations/christmas/the-christmas-pickle-ornament/.

The idea is fun, though and could be something you start as one of your family traditions – hiding an ornament of some type in the tree and having a prize for the finder! I think I’ll put a pair of spooky google eyes in the tree, or maybe a skeleton, and use it similar to the “Elf on the Shelf” – you’d better be good because someone’s always watching!

Have a great day and enjoy gearing up for the holidays, whatever your customs and traditions!Pickle




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