Are Christmas superstitions super or stupid?
There are many superstitions around the 12th night of Christmas, as decorations come down. But does superstition have any place in our modern world?
Have you seen any Christmas decorations up today? If you have, it could be bad luck according to one ancient superstition.
Christmas is a Christian festival that has become increasingly marked by decorations. Whether its tinsel, lights, sleigh bells or holly, high street shops have had Christmas decorations up for months; and many of us will have had them up at home.
But according to Christian tradition, the Christmas season lasts only 12 days, starting on December 25th. This means decorations must come down on January 5th. That’s when the tree is put outside, cardboard angels return to their box and the wreath on the door is thrown away.
This time of year is called ‘Twelfth Night’, and has been an important festival down the years. The famous English playwright William Shakespeare wrote his play ‘Twelfth Night’ especially to be performed at this time, and traditionally, it was a noisy and fun final night of Christmas celebration.
It’s certainly noisy in the Eastern Alps, where even today there is a tradition known as ‘Perchtenlaufen’. On this night, 200-300 masked young men rush about the streets with whips and bells driving out evil spirits.
So why do people think its unlucky to keep the decorations up after the 12th night? This superstition can be traced back to the Middle Ages. They believed that tree spirits lived in greenery, and so entered people’s homes at Christmas on the holly and ivy.
The spirits enjoyed the warmth for a while, but then had to be released back into the countryside after Christmas, otherwise nothing would grow in springtime, and there’d be no summer crops. Meanwhile, trapped inside the home, the tree spirits would cause trouble there.
Many would say the superstitions around Christmas decorations are stupid. How can forgetting to take down the holly bring anyone bad luck? Yet surprisingly in our scientific world, superstition remains alive and well. Avram Grant, the manager of West Ham United, believes his scarf is lucky, while countless folk won’t step on cracks in the pavement or choose to wear lucky bracelets.
Some psychologists say superstitions help us to feel calm and in control. And perhaps on the 12th night, they also help us finally let go of the Christmas season, which some people find hard.
- Do you have any superstitions, or know of anyone who has. Do you take them seriously or think they’re a bit of a joke?
- ‘Only frightened people are superstitious.’ Do you agree?
- Get into groups and create a mini-drama about how someone’s superstition affects them and those around them.
- Research a superstition either past or present. Find out where it came from and why; and what effect it has or had on those who followed it. Does it makes them any happier?
Some People Say...
“All superstition is baseless and therefore stupid.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- What is superstition?
- A superstition is an idea that is strongly held by someone without reason. An example is those who believe a four leaf clover or a horse shoe brings them good luck.
- Are there superstitions attached to Christmas?
- Some people believe that it is unlucky not to take down the Christmas decorations on January 5th.
- Why is January 5th so important?
- In Christian tradition, the Christmas season lasts for 12 days. January 5th is the 12th day after Christmas and marks the end of Christmas celebrations. It’s known as ‘the Twelfth Night.’
- Weren’t people more superstitious in previous centuries?
- It’s hard to say. We’re meant to be living in a scientific era, when we only believe what we can prove. But plenty of people still have lucky charms, or avoid walking under ladders, believing it will bring bad luck.
- Why do people have superstitions when there is no real reason to believe them?
- Some people think that our superstitions help us to feel calm and in control of our life.