Sunday, April 03, 2011

Folklore - Easter

Monday before Easter was called Blue Monday. The communion table was in the Catholic period covered in a blue cloth. This was the quiet week with Shrove Tuesday (Hvide tirsdag) and Ash Wednesday (Askeonsdag) On Shrove Tuesday people eat hot milk and æggesøbe = eggs whipped with sugar and added beer, and with white bread or wheat buns. Ash Wednesday was both the day before the lent at Shrovetide, but also the Wednesday before Maundy Thursday. People had to meet in church with an ash cross painted on their forehead. The ash cross was abolished at the reformation, but the name is still used

Maundy Thursday (Skærtorsdag): The Danish name: skær means clean, referring to that Christ washed the feet of the disciples on that day. This act was copied by the monks, who as a sign of Christian humility washed the feet of the poor. Maundy Thursday had both dark and light sides, one of the light was that the day was for the founding of the Holy Communion, one of the dark that Christ was betrayed by Judas.


It was a good time for the  farmer to read signs from the holy  Easter period  in the old days for the coming field work and the harvest of the year. If the weather was mild on Maundy Thursay this would give a good harvest, and if it was raining this would mean gold for the farmer. In the western Jutland was a custom to carry clothes and linen out in the free to be aired, whatever the sun was shining or it was snowy weather. People meant this would free the clothes from fleas and moths for the year to come. There was a certain verse about the Ase-god Loke, who drove a sledge with the weight of so many fleas that the sledge went into pieces. Maundy Thursday was actually regarded as a dangerous day in the North. It was the big witch-day, where people had to take precautions against all magic from the witches. The witches were out flying the night before Maundy Thursday, but they always came back before the evening. They had to go to church!
The household had to eat nine cabbage at Maundy Thursday (see previous article Spring Equinox). And if it was too early in the year to get hold of all nine cabbages, it was okay to use the first spires of dandelion, goutweed, nettle and buds from trees. Nine was a holy number, probably because of the nine months from conception till birth. Nine has also a mathematic peculiarity; no matter which single number you multiply with nine, the sum of the digits will be nine. No other numbers are like that. And if people had eaten nine cabbages, they were protected against the evil magic of the witches.

Some people were afraid of going to church on the evening of Maundy Thursday - because the witches went to church that night. But if they wanted to find out which churchgoers were doing magic, they had to use the very first egg from a young hen. This gave them power to see the witches. People, who went to church with an egg like that in their pocket, could describe that the witches - who the rest of the year looked like everyone else - were dressed in the strangest head-wear: clay-pots, frying pans, vases and much else.

Good Friday  (Langfredag) was a quiet and sorrowful day, where people only had to go to church and remember Christ on the Cross. The superstitious people read their signs from Good Friday and said that he/she, who gets married on Good Friday, will be childless. If someone was sewing or spinning the wheel, they would get bad fingers -  or the horses would be limp. The weather of Good Friday influenced the rest of the year. If it was fog, then it would be necessary to ask God for help - but if it was a clear day, it would be a good and fertile year.

On Good Friday people had the most simple food. Rye flour-porridge was common, but if they put honey on the porridge, they would not have stomach ache the rest of the year

Easter Saturday (Påskelørdag) was called Skiden lørdag (Filthy Saturday) because it was a washing day, and people had for lunch Skiden æg ,boiled eggs in mustard sauce.  

Easter Sunday was the egg-day. Although we are not that superstitious anymore, many parents tell their children that the Easter bunny  is the deliverer of the delicious chocolate Easter eggs. But in the old days it was the chicken eggs, which owned the status as the real  Easter eggs. Superstition said that the more eggs you received, the more healthy you would be in the year to come. Another omen might stop the most eager egg-eaters from eating too many eggs, since the more Easter eggs you had eaten, the more snakes would you see in the year to come.

Source: Carsten Lingren, Hverdagens Overtro i det moderne Danmark, 2003.


Wanda..... said...

Weather has improved so much here that yard work has kept me busy. Glad I caught up with your post though.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I hope you're having a good weekend, Grethe, and that all is well. I wanted you to know I'm thinking of you....

Thyra said...

Cheers to Wanda and Teresda Evangeline! Thank you for your comments.
Teresa, I have had some health trouble, but I hope to come back soon. I miss you people and blog-world. A nice week-end to you too Teresa.


MyMaracas said...

I just love your posts. I always learn something new, and the folklore you share is enchanting.

I do hope you had a wonderful Easter.