Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas Customs: Feet and shoes

Christmas is a Christian festival but mid-winter was celebrated in pagan times and many superstitions still prevail. The Yule log for example was burnt on the winter festival fire and after was broken into many pieces and kept by members of the household as lucky talisman for the year ahead. It was a bad omen if the Yuletide log was touched by either a woman with flat feet or a man with a turn in his eye.

The Evil Eye is well documented in occult culture but there is no reasoned explanation for flat feet. The Judo-Christian belief that man was made in the image of God gave origins to the ideal body form which we still see today. In Christian art the foot was presented as curved and well formed. This came to represent the Christian Foot, the corollary i.e. a flat foot, was thought to represent evil. In the horrendous time of witch hunts much remorse was expressed after the murder of witches by the community whose frenzy had been orchestrated by the Witch Hunters. To pacify them great ceremony was placed on demonstrating “the mark of the devil” and cadaver feet often presented as flat.

An old English saying was "If you do not give a new pair of shoes to a poor person at least once in your lifetime, you will go barefoot in the next world." This belief may be the reason why Christmas gifts were exchanged by the middle classes so as to avoid poverty. Miniature shoes became popular gifts for good luck from the 18th century on-wards. One reason why miniature shoes were given instead of the real thing might be because superstitious people believe if you give a friend a new pair of shoes then they were sure to walk away from you. Wearing new shoes on Christmas Day was also thought, by many, to bring bad luck.


There is an old Greek traditional of burning old shoes during the Christmas season to prevent misfortunes in the coming year. The ancient Egyptians inhaled the fumes from burning sandals as a cure for headaches. Some people believe shoes retain the spirit of the wearer and by incinerating them the spirit is released. Footwear made from vegetable materials would also contain natural Salicylates to clear the head. Occultists uphold evil is repelled by human smells and the most foul to linger would be a pair of well loved shoes. None of which explains why keeping Christmas cake or the remains of the Yule Log under the bed helps get rid of chilblains.

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