Home Arts and Leisure New England Christmas Sayings and Superstitions

New England Christmas Sayings and Superstitions

Such as when the cows kneel in their stalls


To celebrate Christmas, we bring you some Christmas sayings and superstitions about the holiday from What They Say in New England, by Clifton Johnson in 1896.

Johnson, born in 1865 in Hadley, Mass., published 125 books during his lifetime despite receiving little formal education. He also illustrated and photographed his books.

Among his many interests were traditional New England sayings and folklore. He collected several about Christmas.

Christmas card courtesy Boston Public Library.

Christmas card courtesy Boston Public Library.

Here they are:

When the clock strikes midnight before Christmas the cows kneel in their stalls.

Some young girls in Hadley, years ago, sat up to discover whether this was true or not. At midnight they went out to the barn, and sure enough when the hour struck the cows knelt. At any rate,  the girls said it happened.

A still older story told in the town is that at midnight when Christmas Day begins, all the cattle in the yards and fields kneel with their heads turned to the east in adoration. Two girls of the olden time, eager to see for themselves the truth of the tale, sat up on Christmas Eve until the spellbound hour. Then they visited the farm’s cattleyard. But the cattle made no sign that they were at all affected.


Cold Morning by Currier & Ives. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Christmas Sayings

Half the pork and half the hay
On Christmas Day.

Back in the day, the men would spend a part of Christmas Day making a tour of the neighbors to see how their hay was holding out.

A green Christmas makes a full churchyard.

The reason? Winters with  constant freezings and thawings are very unhealthy. Therefore they fill the graveyard.

The twelve days of Christmas indicate the weather for the following year.

Each day in order shows the weather for one month.

If the sun shines through the limbs of the apple-trees on Christmas Day, there will be a good crop of fruit next year.

 *  *  *



The Christmas holiday actually began in ancient Rome — and so did Italian cookies. The New England Historical Society’s new book, Italian Christmas Cookies, tells you how to make those delicious treats. It also bring you the history of the Italian immigrants who brought them to New England. A great gift for anyone who grew up Italian in New England. Available in paperback on Amazon; just click here.


This story about Christmas sayings and superstitions was updated in 2023.


Richard Pirozzi December 25, 2013 - 10:51 am

Merry Christmas

New England Historical Society December 25, 2013 - 11:25 am

^Merry Christmas to you!

Linda Hanley December 25, 2013 - 6:32 pm

Link won’t open, but it does turn into an AD

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