The Strange History of Traditions around the World

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), November 19, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Strange History of Traditions around the World


We are all familiar with the vast number of Christmas traditions and customs we observe today; however, hundreds of equally wonderful and bizarre traditions have been lost or corrupted over the ages.

An old Victorian tradition was to hide a glass pickle in the Christmas tree the night before Christmas.

Whoever found the pickle would either receive a special gift or get to open the first gift.

The story behind this tradition dates back to medieval times. Legend has it that a sinister innkeeper captured two hapless children and imprisoned them inside a pickle barrel.

St Nicholas happened to walk by the inn later on, and heard the children's cries for help. He immediately tapped the barrel with his staff and freed the children, who ran home for Christmas dinner.

Another infamous Victorian Christmas tradition is that of humble pie. Venison was traditionally served to the gentry on Christmas Day, while the servants were given what was left over, including the heart and insides of the deer.

The servants would bake the entrails in a pie known as humble pie and eat it on Christmas Day, hence the phrase 'go and eat humble pie'.

In medieval Poland, predicting the future was an important Christmas tradition.

Maidens who were curious about their future love would eavesdrop on their neighbour on Christmas Eve.

If they heard the word 'go' it meant she would be getting married in the next year. The word 'sit' meant she'd be single for a long time.

Another way to find out their futures was to blindfold each other on the way to Christmas Eve midnight mass and touch fence pickets.

A straight and smooth picket indicated a resourceful husband.

A crooked and rough one meant a clumsy and awkward husband.

Until the introduction of the Christmas tree in the Victorian era, the kissing bough was the primary piece of decorative greenery in the English Christmas.

It was formed in the shape of a double hoop with streamers going up to a central point and was made up of evergreen boughs, holly, ivy, apples, pears, ribbons and other ornaments along with lighted candles. …

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