Christmas Omens: 1896

HCandlelight, 1920s American, Commercial process; Sheet: 5 1/16 × 5 13/16 in. (12.8 × 14.8 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Diane Carol Brandt, 2013 (2013.521.1)

HCandlelight, 1920s
Commercial process; Sheet: 5 1/16 × 5 13/16 in. (12.8 × 14.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Diane Carol Brandt, 2013 (2013.521.1)


Being a Few of the Superstitions That Prevail at This Season

It is considered very unseemly to look a gift father in the mouth.

To give a friend a present which cost you $7 and get in return a silk handkerchief worth 28 cents is a sign that you will eventually make a frantic effort to present yourself with a series of swift kicks.

It is considered a very evil omen to permit your wife to present you with a box of cigars on Christmas morning. If you let the stove smoke them the evil may possibly be averted, but if you attempt to smoke them yourself—well, you’ve been warned in time, that’s all.

It is considered most unlucky to have 14 relatives drop in on you for dinner Christmas Day, just when you wife has cooked according to one of those eighty-seven-cent newspaper menus.

If you see a small, bright light in your room when you return just before daybreak from a Christmas Eve gin rickey festival, it is a sure sign that your wife is awaiting you with outstretched arms, &c., &c., ad lib. If, however, you see 34 small, bright lights, it is an omen that you’ll have trouble in locating the keyhole, and that you don’t care a tinker’s epithet how many hours your wife has waited for you.

If you find a large piece of molasses candy in your hair it is a token that your little boy was the recipient of more Christmas taffy than he knew just what to do with.

It is considered very bad luck to make $25 presents on a $15 salary.

It is a sign of impending misfortune if you forget to give the cook a handsome present.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 27 December 1896: p. 27

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:

There were, to be sure, many Christmas superstitions and omens that were taken very seriously. For example:

The holly used for decorations, both the church and house, should be taken down on Candlemas eve, or misfortune will come on parish or people. In taking down holly in some parts of England it is thought unlucky to prick the finger if blood comes, but if a leaf stick to dress or coat it is a good omen. In old days a branch of holly picked on Christmas eve was an efficacious as the rowan, or mountain ash, in protecting from witches and warlocks or evil spells

In some parts of Yorkshire, curiously enough, to this day it is believed that if more ivy than holly is used in the Christmas decorations the wife will “wear the breeches” for the ensuing year. An old farmer was once seen pulling down the ivy with which the kitchen was decorated. “I’ll ha’ noan o’ this,” he whispered to his squire.   The Christian Recorder [Philadelphia PA] 21 December 1899

Mrs Daffodil would add that it is very bad luck for a popular gentleman to leave jewellers’ receipts lying about where they can be seen by visiting ladies. Such receipts often contain painful details: the lady who was the recipient of a pair of slippers will inevitably feel slighted to find that another lady received a diamond bracelet.  A contretemps of this order can bring down a rain of curses upon the head of the careless gentleman.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


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