Superstitions and Christmas customs of the Cracovians
On the one hand, religious, on the other hand extremely superstitious and eager to be protected against the interference of supernatural forces, not necessarily those of divine provenance.
The day of Christmas Eve was a time when Cracovians conscientiously performed all the necessary rites – both those arising from faith and those originating from centuries of tradition. This special day of the year was full of signs and meanings, which, when properly decoded, offered divination for the new year.
Everyone interpreted the signs that day: the girls listened to the barking of the dog, because her fiancé was to come from the side from which it was heard, they counted the pegs in the fence, because an even number meant they would be married in the same year. A farmer would go to the orchard, where he would strike a tree three times with an axe, asking if it would bear fruit. During the journey to the midnight mass, the sky was observed: if it was sparkling with stars, the year would be plentiful in eggs, if it was shrouded in fog, the cows would give a lot of milk.
In addition to neutral habits, there were also superstitious actions for dispelling evil, and if it could not be avoided completely, it was necessary to make it befall other people (garbage spilled over the neighbours threshold).
“After Christmas Eve supper, they still munch dry boiled turnip and throw it at themselves to protect themselves from the ulcer, and cast it onto the other person”.
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Seweryn Udziela, Krakowiacy, Kraków 1924.