Gift Giving Superstitions and Legends
There are a lot of superstitions and legends involving the giving and receiving of gifts. For instance it was at one time considered bad luck to give a pair of scissors or a knife as a gift because it was feared that the act would “cut” the friendship in half. Therefore knives were never given as wedding gifts as it was believed they would lead to a broken marriage.
Also never give anyone a pair of shoes as a Christmas gift because they would make the person you give them to walk away from you. When you give someone a gift of a wallet or purse be sure to put some money into it, even if only a coin, to ward off bad luck. At one time bakers would throw in an extra roll when you bought a dozen as a “gift” in case any of the other rolls were too small. This “gift” became known as the baker’s dozen.
Legends are told as having happened long, long ago whereas urban legends are set in contemporary times and told as having happened to people known either personally to the teller or to someone known by a person the teller knows. The places and names change as they are updated to fit current times and all carry a warning or lesson of some sort. There may even be some truth to the story although the people and places have been changed so many times that it becomes hard to determine what the truth actually was.
One such tale recounts a king’s offer of a gift to a famous golfer (sometimes the golfer is named other times he is just “a famous golfer”) who after first declining the gift asks for a golf club only to find to his amazement that the king has bought him an entire golf course.
In several different legends, although the people and circumstances change the story and its warning are the same. A son (nephew, daughter, niece…) is expecting a very expensive gift (car, house, inheritance…) from his father (uncle, aunt…) but receives a bible. In a fit of anger he throws the bible at the giver and leaves not returning until the givers death when he notices the bible from so long ago, opens it and finds the (key to the car, check to the car dealer, will leaving him everything etc.).
Then there are the one-up-manship legends. Two or more siblings vie to get the best gift for their mother (houses, cars, jewels) with one going to great expense to get a bird (myna, parrot…) that has been specially trained (to read the bible, sing opera, speak Italian…). The mother politely thanks all (while letting them know their gift wasn’t very practical) then speaks proudly of the child who had the sense to bring her the delicious chicken.
There is also a true story of two brothers who re-gifted the same pair of pants back and forth wrapped in very creative ways, from rolling them into a 3′ long 1″ wide pipe to stuffing them into the glove compartment of a car that they then had crushed and delivered in time for Christmas. The pants went back and forth for 25 years before they finally fell apart.
A good read and thank you. Always difficult to be precise when tying down provenence of social customs and therefore much conjecture surrounds some interpretations. To the best of my knowledge, the origins of Baker’s Dozens relates to
avoidance of corporal punishement given to dishonest traders by the authorities in the Middle Ages. The extra loaf/roll was a good will gesture to a customer who purchased 12 items and by the practice baklers would avoid official scrutiny. Those who shortchanged customers found the punishment severe and had their feet beaten (known as falanga or bastinado). Falanga is still used in the Middle East both as a corporal punishment (mild) and torture (severe).
A common misconception about the Bakers Dozens was it represented the twelve disciples plus Jesus.
Greeting of the Season
Falanga (or bastinado) describes a form of foot torture where victims were bound with their feet raised and their soles beaten with sticks (later cables or metal implements). It is thought falanga had its origins in the Turkey. Sometime blows were direct to bare feet or through shoes. In severe cases, casualties were forced to walk on glass; or jump, on the spot, carrying a heavy weight. The immediate effects are pains, with bleeding and tissue swelling but permanent damaged is dependent on posttraumatic oedema (or swelling). Torturers might limit this, as part of the ordeal, by cooling the feet or forcing the victim to put their shoes on after a beating. Smashing the heel and ball of the foot destroys the natural fatty-fibro padding, which assists shock absorption in normal walking. Depending on the severity of damage this would leave the victim unable to walk without pain. Skin wounds heal by second intention, leaving painful scars. Detachment of the skin at its deeper levels results in damage to proprioception adding considerable to pathological gait. Many victims report aponeuritis where the whole sole of the foot has become painful. Changes in pressure within muscle compartments cause a radical change in walking style. The feet are reported as hot and cold and there is an increase in the rate of perspiration. Stability and balance may also be adversely affected due to falanga. In many regions of the world falanga is still practiced as a form of corporal punishment in bringing up children. In the Middle Ages falanga was a punishment often used on traders who were dishonest. For some reason bakers were particularly singled and this sent shock waves across Europe.