Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©2000 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Barry Cleveland, editor, "The Carmi Times."

New Year superstitions

Our forefathers had numerous superstitions about Christmas and New
Year's Day.

Several of those superstitions are about the weather. According to one
such superstition, one should note the date of the first snow, then
count the intervening days until Christmas. This tells how many snows
will fall this winter. Others started earlier than that to predict the
number of snows. They counted the number of foggy mornings in August.
That foretold how many snows would fall during the coming winter.
Some oldsters still believe the first 12 days of January indicate the
type of weather we'll have during the coming 12 months. For example, if
the fourth day of January is rainy, then April (the fourth month) will
be a wet month. You may know someone who swears by this type of weather

My mother always quoted an old saying: "A white Christmas means a lean
graveyard; a green Christmas means a fat graveyard." Perhaps if it is
cold enough to cover the ground with snow, it is cold enough to kill the
germs which are most prevalent in the winter.

Every child has heard the story of how the animals talked on Christmas
Eve. Cows were said to have knelt at midnight on Christmas Eve, but woe
be to the one who tried to watch them.

A superstition brought to Illinois by German farmers says livestock will
be safe from witches if the stables are cleaned between Christmas and
the New Year.

Certain tasks were not to be done between Christmas and New Year's
Day--among them were knitting, sewing and doing the family laundry. (I
personally think the pioneer women had earned this rest, anyway.)
If one took a bath on Christmas Day, one would remain clean all year. No
doubt little boys appreciated that superstition.

From the South comes the custom of cooking black-eyed peas on New
Year's Day--one who eats such fare will have good luck all year. Others
believe eating cabbage on that day will bring good luck.

To assure good luck for the New Year, one should sleep with a horseshoe
under his pillow on New Year's Eve.

Bet you can add several more such superstitions to this list. Have your
grandparents told you any such tales from their childhood?


The Genealogy Library will be closed until February 2001. Watch this
column for opening date and new hours.


Address letters to Genealogy, White County Historical Society, PO Box
121, Carmi, IL 62821.

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