Some "Old Time" Sayings and Traditions and Where They Hail From

>> Monday, November 30, 2009

This is sort of a fun post. I was reading recently and came across a few short paragraphs about where some quotes, traditions or sayings originated.

We all hear what many folks refer to as "old time" sayings, like this one, "I'll get it by hook or by crook" From what I understand, back when a
 wealthy land owner leased a plot of land to a farmer in trade for much of the crop, the land owner was fiercly protective of the natural resources of the land and would not allow the farmer to cut any living trees for firewood, but would allow dead or fallen wood to be collected for firewood and to keep insects or blight from harboring in the dead branches, so it was to be, that many farmers would use a cane or the "crook" of a fallen branch to pull dead branches from the trees in order to heat their homes.

Another one you may have heard "Knock on Wood" or "Knocking on Wood" it is said that this is an old Druidic custom of worship. When all the stock had been bedded down for the night, and the barn doors closed a small prayer was said that no harm befall it. As with the custom after the barn doors were closed, the wood of the doorframe was rapped with the knuckles for luck, and we have been forever "knocking on wood" when we hope for the best.

No one was more aware of the connection that the barn has with Christmas than the pioneering farmer. Christ, of course was born in a barn. (Not to get too religious)
"Holiday" was originally "Holyday"

The tradition of not letting the children see or know of thier gifts until Christmas morning goes as follows, the Children were told that the cattle kneeled and spoke in honor of the Saviour on Christmas eve. Gifts were left in the barn for the children to find in the morning. to keep them away from the barn while the gifts were prepared they were told great misfortune would befall anyone who heard the cattle "speak" on Christmas eve.

Today we hang a pine bough wreath on the door of our house during the holidays ,but it was originally hung on the barn door, representing the circle of faith that no harm would come to the farm, also, the cattle were dressed in garland and fancy ribbons on Christmas day. All of this occured after about 1740, prior to that, Christmas in America was just another day, mainly due to the Puritans who had strict laws about celebrating Christmas. In 1740 the Moravians founded Bethlehem PA, and began many of the Christmas traditions we know today. (done in the German traditions of St. Nicholas, etc.)

Another land tradition (and in some places law) a fence rail had to be 11 feet long, Why 11 ft.? it is 1/6th of a surveyors chain of 66 feet so you could tell how much land was fenced off by counting the fence posts, it was law in many places for tax purposes and lazy tax men, no measuring, just counting.

It is said that our word "toboggan" is a corruption of "tom-pung" a sled used to move heavy stones. Most of the heavy moving at the homestead was reserved for winter. and many sleds or "sledges" were called "pungs". Sledges were not used exclusively in winter, a wheeled cart with a heavy load was useless in the soft spring ground of the farm, whereas a pung could glide over the soft ground and mud without much effort at all. Another little known tradition about sleds were their names a "tom" was used to move stones, a "jack" was used to move wood, and a "bob" was used to move lighter loads, like apples or grain.
I hope this little post has been fun to read and you have gleaned a little more info on the origins of some things on the homestead. Remember what we call "weather beaten" the pioneers called "weather cured" it all depends on how you look at it!

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle everything !!

Peace and Prosperity to You,,Happy Homesteading,,,NY Homesteader

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