This is why you shouldn't do any laundry between Christmas and New Year's Eve

Although the dirty laundry piles up after Christmas, it is not allowed in the machine. This is because it is customary not to do laundry between Christmas and New Year's Eve. But what's behind it?

laundry myth tradition Christmas holidays New Year
© Sarah Brown / Unsplash
laundry myth tradition Christmas holidays New Year

In many families, the superstition has persisted for many generations: if freshly washed laundry is hung out to dry between Christmas and New Year, there is a risk that a relative will die. As a result, many people leave their dirty laundry in the cellar between the holidays. But where does this superstition come from?

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On the trail of superstition

What many people don't know is that this was originally an ancient pagan custom that has also become anchored in Christian tradition over the centuries. Since then, the nights around the turn of the year have been considered eerie.

The nights after the winter solstice are some of the longest of the year and are known as "Rauhnächte" (rough nights) in many regions of Europe. According to popular belief, they have a mystical significance: the spirit realm is said to be open during the Rauhnächte.

The boundaries to the afterlife become blurred

nights Christmas New Year Kurt Bouda@Pixabay

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a so-called 'Wild Hunt' is said to be taking place in the sky. This is how Jacob Grimm established the term in his German Mythology from 1835, but a story about it is said to have appeared in medieval literature.

During this wild night, the souls of the dead are said to rush across the sky together with ghosts and demons. Anyone who witnesses these events is threatened with disaster such as war or death in their immediate surroundings. For this reason, noise is made on New Year's Eve: the noise is intended to ward off the hunters in the sky.

Danger on the washing line

The custom of not doing laundry during this time can also be traced back to this eerie 'Wild Hunt'. However, it is not washing the laundry that is the problem, but hanging it up: According to popular belief, white linen sheets are stolen during the 'Wild Hunt' and turned into shrouds.

According to tradition, Wotan, the dreaded god of death and storms, is said to be out and about on New Year's Eve. The custom is intended to prevent him from getting caught in the washing line and becoming angry.

The dark winter nights have always stimulated the imagination. And we have more time for other things, such as preparing delicious and simple New Year's Eve dishes.

Matching the pandemic

According to tradition, the hunt in the sky is particularly wild on four specific nights: The night of St. Thomas from December 20 to 21, Christmas Eve from December 24 to 25, New Year's Eve from December 31 to January 1 and the night of Epiphany from December 5 to 6 are considered the most important rough nights.

However, according to custom, it is not only washing clothes that is not a good idea during the Rauhnächte: in some regions, people are keen to keep the house particularly tidy, drive away evil spirits with the help of incense and avoid going out into the street after dark.

Read more:

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Here are 2 things you should never do when using your washing machine

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Here's everything you should know about taking care of your washing machine

This article has been translated from Gentside DE.

Source used:

SZ: The great longing for myths and legends

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