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Picking up a dropped thread...or 2

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  • Helen Fedor
    Earlier we were talking about the fact that, to bring good luck, the first person across the threshold on new Year s Day had to be a male (at our house too).
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2005
      Earlier we were talking about the fact that, to bring good luck, the
      first person across the threshold on new Year's Day had to be a male (at
      our house too). Someone mentioned that it was preferable for him to be

      Yesterday, on the way home, I was reading the Sunday comics and glanced
      at the Kids' Page. They had a little piece on the ways different
      countries celebrate New Year's. Here's the paragraph on Scotland:

      "The Scots celebrate 'Hogmanay' with the tradition of 'first footing.'
      To ensure good luck for the house, the person who sets the first foot
      over the threshold after midnight is traditionally male, dark-haired
      (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers
      arriving on your doorstep meant trouble) and carries symbolic items such
      as coal, shortbread, salt, and bread."

      So could there be a connection????????

      I finally looked in "Slovakia: European Contexts of the Folk Culture"
      [terrific source, but the English can get quite funky] to see what it
      has to say about the first visitor on NY's. This is somewhat in
      relation to carolling (that went on throughout the Christmas-NY's

      "One special form of carolling is represented by 'polazovanie,' spread
      not only in Slovakia, but also in Poland, Ukraine, Eastern Moravia,
      Serbia, and Croatia. Its essence is in the arrival of the first male
      visitor to the house during the so-called 'polazujuce' days, when the
      ritual prohibition for a woman to enter a foreign house as the first
      one, is in effect. This is connected to [the] magic of beginning, on
      which, according to superstitious concepts, the happiness or unhappiness
      of a family was based. Also through this ritual act we can read out
      concepts of woman under the folk belief. [The] 'polaznik' should come
      early [in the] morning, almost when [it is] still dark, and keep certain
      rules. Firstly, he should be a healthy, young, nicely dressed boy in a
      growing up period of age....

      "To the first visitor was ascribed importance in all European
      countries, mainly on New Year's Eve. In areas of Catholic and Orthodox
      rite[s], it was demanded on the Lord's Birth, or New Year's Eve, that
      the first visitor should be of the male sex, young, and handsome. In
      Protestant countries sex was not as important, but youth and beauty were

      Here's what the same book has to say about Christmas trees and gift
      giving, as a follow-up to Martin's email:

      "The decorated Christmas tree with lights of the new age, had mainly
      aesthetical functions. It is a product of urban culture. The German
      origin of the Christmas tree is also apparent due to the fact that it
      first became common in towns with a numerous German population and among
      the Protestant citizen's levels. It became a central point of commonly
      celebrated festivals, and therefore in a short time, it also spread to
      inns, schools, orphanages, hospitals, in connection with charity

      "It penetrated gradually into the peasant environment of Slovakia, in a
      direction from the west to the east, from the end of the 19th century.
      In NE Slovakia, the tree became generally widespread only after WWII.
      Together with the penetration of town patterns, its decorativeness also
      grew. During the 20th century, people started to put presents under the
      tree, at the beginning only for children. The lightened, large, and
      fully decorated tree became a symbol, around which a sacred liturgical
      program had developed. Children used to write letters to the baby
      Jesus, for presents, parents secretly decorated the tree. Among the
      Catholic families, the tree used to be after the New Year, sacred by
      priest in relation to Christian learning, that it is a present from
      little Jesus. [Does this mean that the priest blessed it after NY'sD?]
      Until that time, it also has to stay untouched, this means, that sweets
      must not be eaten off it.

      "Under the traditional culture, Christmas presents as a recent
      understanding, were not known. It spread only in connection with the
      Christmas tree. Traditional presents were in the form of a wish, song,
      and it used to be paid for by fruits, cakes, to shepherds by podders,
      grain. Presents have represented until the present time, a cultural
      phenomenon and a means for making people's relationships, their
      cultivation and strengthening."

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