There are many traditions and even, dare we say it, superstitions surrounding the festive season. Here are some of the main traditions followed around the world.
Opening the doors of the house at midnight, Christmas Eve is supposed to be good luck as it lets out the evil spirits that may have gathered throughout the year. 'First Foots' are those that enter the house first, a darker haired man entering the house first on Christmas Day is a good sign, and if the first guest is a woman it is said to bring in bad fortune. A first foot bringing in an evergreen is considered a blessing. The first person to open the door on Christmas morning should shout and welcome 'Father Christmas'. Some people also believe that sweeping your threshold on Christmas sweeps away all the troubles of the past 12 months.
It is considered unlucky to sing Christmas carols at any occasion other than over the days of Christmas. It is also considered unlucky to send carolers away empty-handed if they turn up at your door.
In Ireland it is a tradition to Hunt the Wren or go Mumming on St Stephen's Day with singers, musicians and dancers turning up at your door to entertain you. Those participating are known as Wren Boys.
It is believed that if you make a wish while stirring a Christmas pudding, it will come true. It stands to reason that, if you tell anyone about what you have wished for, it will not come true. If everyone in the family takes turns while stirring, it will bring good fortune to the family. Young girls, who are hoping to get married soon should also give a stir when the Christmas pudding is being cooked.
It is considered unlucky to cut into a Christmas cake before Christmas Eve and some portion of the cake should be kept till Christmas Day. Also, eating an apple on Christmas Eve is supposed to bring good health throughout the next year.
Yule Log, Christmas Candle - Light and Fire
The Yule Log must be kept burning all night, and it should be lit by the log used the previous year to keep evil spirits at bay. The log should not be bought but should be a gift or a piece of wood saved for the occasion. Even the remains of the log are considered lucky and are a protection against fire and lightning.
Irish tradition says that Christmas candles should be left lit in a window to help the Holy Family find their way to Bethlehem. For safety sake it is ok to replace a real candle with a battery operated light to avoid accidental fires.
The Christmas table should always be set for an even number of people because, an odd numbered dinner table doesn't just make for awkward conversation, tradition says it also brings in bad luck. A pot of honey on the Christmas table keeps evil away from your home and hiding fish scales under the dinner plates is thought to bring in good luck. Everyone should leave the dinner table at the same according to tradition and you should always avoid sitting your guests with their back to a door during dinner as it this is considered to be unlucky. Also, it is believed that a Christmas Dinner should have nine courses and no one should be left hungry on Christmas Eve to encourage further prosperity for everyone in attendance over the next 12 months.
Shoes, Presents and Work
Gifting new shoes and wearing new shoes on Christmas is said to bring good fortune.
In Greece it is believed that burning old shoes prevents misfortune the next year.
Good news for workers as tradition states that all work should be avoided on Christmas Day with only the unavoidable tasks undertaken and only if completely necessary.