Christmas Card

Christmas Proverbs

This collection of Christmas proverbs in various languages appeared in the December 26, 1868 issue of The Christian Recorder.  This paper was “Published by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, for the Dissemination of Religion, Morality, Literature and Science.”  in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Christmas comes but once a year.”  – A heart old proverb, indicating permission to go to full length in enjoyment. If the children scream more loudly than usual – if the boys and girls frolic more wildly, or paterfamilias purchase a present, a little too extravagant – never mind, pardon it for this time – “Christmas comes but once a year!” Forget and forgive, good folks, and we will forget and forgive in turn.

“Christmas is talked of so long, that it comes at last.” – An old Norman, French, and another cheerful proverb, full of the spirit of the season, meaning that, whatever trouble or darkness may intervene, light and joy will come at last. It is the same as “it’s a long lane that has no turn,” or “a fast day is the eve of a feast day.” Perhaps it may have the suspicion of an old superstition, that, if we only hammer and weary away at anything long enough, we bring it to pass. So, then  “Talk of it, ere summer’s past, Christmas is sure to come at last.”

“After Christmas comes Lent.” – This is German. Nach Weihnachten kommt Fasten. This is a warning and solemn proverb, something like “it is dark under the lamp.”

However, as the Danes say: Amboldt er ikke aed for en god Forhammer – the anvil does not fear a good sledge hammer, and he who has had a glorious feast-tide finds as much rational pleasure in a season of sobriety and quieter joys:

“The bow cannot be always bent;
Past Christmas – comes the sober Lent.”

“A green Christmas makes a fat churchyard.” – A Danish proverb: En graen Juul giver en fed Kirkegaard. This is the old sanitary weather theory, that unseasonable weather is unhealthy. When it is warm in winter, imprudent people expose themselves to the damp, unhealthy air, or become impatient of too much warm covering, and are caught on “a cold snap” to their sorrow. In the old times, when most people dwelt in badly warmed, badly constructed houses, such changes in the weather were of much greater significance than at present.

“An old bit of truthful rule
A Christmas green – a churchyard full.”

Closely allied to this, but without its terrible warning, we have the German proverb:

“Ist das wetter um Weihnact gelind,
So freut sich Mann, Weib und Kind.

Which in English means:

“Is the water at Christmas mild?
It is joy to man, and wife, and child.”

“Christmas is a good time to bleed horses in.” – This was an old superstition, and was closely followed. The horses were run up and down until in a sweat, and then bled.

As Tuet sings:

“Ere Christmas be passed let horses be let blood,
For many a purpose it doth them much good.”

“A green Christmas, a white Easter.”
“Gruene Weihnacht, weisse Ostern.”

German, of course. The same has another form:

“Weihnacht im Klee,
Ostern im Schnee.”

“If Christmas be in clover,
Easter with snow will be heaped over.”

And the same people say, “Ist das Wetter um Weihnacht gelind, so wahrt die Kaelte gewochnlich, lange bis Fruchjahr hinein.” “When the weather is mild at Christmas, cold weather lasts into Spring.”

All of which proverbs receive important modifications, when applied to this our North American climate.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Collection: African American Newspapers 
Date: December 26, 1868
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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