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Monday, December 31, 2012

St. Sylvester's Day Lore

December 31st is St. Sylvester's Day. Here is some associated folklore:
  • To be born on Sylvester's day gives a love of change that is carried too far.
  • It is a bad day for reconciling enemies.
  • December thirty-first, when Judas hanged himself, is considered by many a very unlucky day.
  • On Sylvester night all water is turned into wine, but only between 12 and 1 o'clock.
  • In Ireland on the last day of the year a cake is thrown at the door by the head of the house to prevent hunger from entering during the coming year.
  • Whoever sees his or her shadow on St. Sylvester's night, without any head to the shadow will die within a year.
  • On the last day of the old year rats are going about everywhere in the house, and if they hear nothing said about them, they will never go there again; but if the word rat is mentioned in their hearing, they will take it as an invitation and will return in great numbers.
It used to be a custom not long since for the inhabitants of St. Pierre on the island of Guernsey to turn out in a body on the 31st of December to bury an effigy representing the old year in the sand of Vazon Bay. This was called burying the "End of the Year." This custom is now extinct, and popular corruption has mixed it up with the burning of Guy Fawke's effigy on the 5th of November, so much so that the figure of Guy is now called "The end of the year" without any reason whatever.

In Germany New Year's eve is called Sylvester's Eve and it is considered ill luck to go to bed before the new year has begun. There is a widespread superstition that if you keep awake on that night and hear a chorus of voices singing hymns, you will have good luck all the year. In many families the children recite verses (New-Year wishes) for their parents, ask their forgiveness for wrong-doings during the past year and promising good behavior for the new year. Great revelries are held on that night in almost every country and many superstitious rites are observed.

In Scotland the last day of the year is considered propitious for almost any undertaking, especially marriage.

Found in:
Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World
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