Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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ST. THOMAS'S DAY
the character of some pagan god, who, like the Teutonic Odin or Woden, ruled the souls of the departed. In the houses the people listen with awe for the sound of his chariot, and when it is heard make anxious prayer to him for protection from all ill. I; retiring to rest the house-father goes to the cowhouse with holy water and consecrated salt, asperges it from without, and then entering, sprinkles every cow. Salt is also thrown on the bead of each animal with the words, " St. Thomas preserve thee from all sickness." In the Bohmerwald the cattle are fed on this night with consecrated bayberries, bread, and salt, in order to avert disease.63
In Upper and Lower Austria St. Thomas's Eve is reckoned as one of the so-called Rauchnachte (smoke-nights) when houses and farm-buildings must be sanctified with incense and holy water, the other nights being the Eves of Christmas, the New Year, and the Epiphany.64
In Germany St. Thomas's, like St. Andrew's Eve, is a time for forecasting the future, and the methods already described are some­times employed by girls who wish to behold their future husbands. A widely diffused custom is that of throwing shoes backwards over the shoulders. If the points are found turned towards the door the thrower is destined to leave the house during the year ; if they are turned away from it another year will be spent there. In Westphalia a belief prevails that you must eat and drink heartily on this night in order to avert scarcity.65
In Lower Austria it is supposed that sluggards can cure them­selves of oversleeping by saying a special prayer before they go to bed on St. Thomas's Eve, and in Westphalia in the mid-nine­teenth century the same association of the day with slumber was shown by the schoolchildren's custom of calling the child who arrived last at school Domesesel (Thomas ass). In Holland, again, the person who lies longest in bed on St. Thomas's Day is greeted with shouts of " lazybones." Probably the fact that December 21 is the shortest day is enough to account for this.66
In England there was divination by means of " St. Thomas's onion." Girls used to peel an onion, wrap it in a handkerchief and put it under their heads at night, with a prayer to the saint
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