Will humankind ever learn?

I’ve always been a little bit superstitious, for some reason. To be fair, I’d like to think that I’m just easily suggestible, and that the people around me have lured me into their shadowy lair of hocus pocus claptrap done in the name of good luck. Nevertheless, my lack of backbone leads to me doing all manner of silly things in an attempt to ensure that good fortune shines on me.

When I was a kid, my grandmother always insisted that I say ‘white rabbits’ on the first day of the month, if I was to have good luck for the next four weeks. If ‘white rabbits’ wasn’t the first thing I said that day, then a quick chant of ‘white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits’ was apparently a manual override of the bad luck that would ensue. Good fortune’s version of being given lines at school, I guess.

Whenever I go to Manchester to see eleven men in red kick a football around, The Best Man always insists that we walk up the furthest staircase of four to our Old Trafford seats, for fear that United will lose if we don’t stick with tradition. I have seen them win, lose and draw when following this policy, yet despite knowing that it doesn’t work, I still stick to it even if The Best Man isn’t with me.

And I always put my left sock on before my right one, after meeting a wise old man in India who insisted that I would have a long and prosperous life if I maintained this early morning devotion. OK, that’s a lie – I’ve never even been to India, let alone developed a sock donning habit – but I reckon I’d be susceptible if anybody came up with even a half-compelling story about why I should do it.

The strange thing is, I don’t believe in much of the made-up nonsensestuff that many people avidly follow. I don’t read my horoscopes, I don’t think that tarot cards or tea leaves are a harbinger to my future, and I’m certainly not a church-goer. Hell, I don’t even believe in the stupid superstitions I have, but I still do them just in case my life turns to one giant pile of mush if for some reason I stop.

On this basis, I think I have discovered the root of America’s current economic woes. As every British child knows, it is absolutely imperative that all evidence of Christmas decorations be removed from your house by the evening of the 5th of January (or Twelfth Night, as it is more commonly known). I know it’s linked to Candlemas or Epiphany or some other such blah blah blah, but all I know is that if there’s a single trace of tinsel hanging up after the 5th, then a plague descends on your house, and all your worldly possessions turn into celery. Or beetroot. Definitely one or the other.

It’s a rule we stuck to rigidly when I was a kid, and my life has been pretty damn good so far. Indeed, such has my commitment been to the Twelfth Night principle, that in the last years of living alone, I didn’t even put decorations up for fear that I would somehow forget the 5th and I’d come home to find that my TV had been transformed into a root vegetable.

Here in the US, they don’t care. We’re now in early February, and most nights as I walk home I see a Christmas tree or two sitting forlornly in the gutter having finally had its two month stay in some household or other brutally terminated. Is it any wonder that the economy has gone to hell in a handcart given this slovenly approach to the fundamental traditions that make this world tick?

They can talk about subprime mortgages until they’re blue in the face, but herein lies the root of the financial crisis. If you walk past the old offices of Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual or Bear Stearns, I bet you’ll see a Christmas tree in their lobby. Sure, its lights may be blinking merrily, but that’s just the tree sending a message to the other trees around it.

“Sit tight lads,” it’s saying. “Seems like they’ve forgotten the Twelfth Night rule. We’ll be running this place before you know it.”

14 thoughts on “Will humankind ever learn?

  1. Silverback

    Never mind the furthest staircase, Dylan, I think you should avoid the whole stadium. If the other 68,000 of you did that, maybe the rest of the EPL (how American have I become ??!!) would stand a chance of being Champions.

  2. carrie

    *eeeek* Would it count if I were to get my tree taken down and boxed up by Feb 5th rather than Jan 5th? I should probably run home and do that if so.

  3. Esther

    I’ve been worrying about all the Christmas decorations still up here in LA, but I hadn’t made the connection between that and the recession. I bet you’re right!

  4. Karen

    Man that explains our crash over here in Iceland! We and most of the country leave our fairy lights up pretty much all year round! 😉

    There is even a campaign for it, to ease the SAD of my fellow adopted countrywomen 🙂

  5. Alasdair

    Esther – you can relax – in LA, those aren’t Xmas decorations, they are celebrations of whatever often-obscure something-or-other we would like to celebrate …

    Remember that various Orthodoxies don’t celebrate Xmas until Jan 6th, anyway, so you have 12 days *after* that – and then the sub-Orthodoxies who still go by Julian rather than Gregorian dating, or who use a Chinese calendar, or … or … or …

    It’s sorta like timezones – it’s noon somewhere on the planet if you look hard enough …

    Anyway, we can’t be in a recession – the Eeeevil Booosh (TM) is no longer in office, so all is well with the world …

  6. Amanda

    Hey, you are SO right….my grandmother was the same about the white rabbits… and I still do it to this day!!!!

  7. GrahameD

    Notwithstanding people leaving their decorations up way way too long, which is just asking for trouble as you so rightly point out, the one I don’t get is the people who put the tree out on the kerb first thing Boxing Day morning.
    I get the impression they think the 12 days of Christmas are the 12 days running up to the 25th.
    Or maybe because the shops put out Christmas stuff in September they’ve just had it up to here with good cheer by then…

  8. Expat Mum

    We weren’t back from skiing on the 5th and my sister gave me grief for the very same thing. And to be fair to myself, the snow has melted this weekend, which meant that I could venture into the very centre, I mean center, of my front garden and whisk the wreath thing off the planter. I’m going to be worrying all year now!

  9. Urban Panther

    White rabbits is chanted in our household when we are sitting around a bonfire, and the smoke decides to invade your section of the circle. Chanting white rabbits makes the smoke move to another section of the circle. This only works, of course, if nobody else around the fire knows the white rabbits charm. Otherwise, the next smoked out person starts chanting, and the smoke just makes an endless journey from one person to the next.

  10. Limey

    I am completely superstitious about some things in a way that I just don’t think Americans are. I’m English but have been in the States for a while and am always laughed at by Americans when I make them take new shoes off the bed and all that silly stuff! I blame my mum – she is always full of daft superstitious rules! Nice blog! – Limey

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