Category Archives: Holidays

Want a Prosperous New Year? Eat Cabbage. Avoid Those Talking Cattle.

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

If you want a prosperous new year, make sure to eat some cabbage before going to bed on New Year’s Eve. And be careful not to sneeze.

Oh, and if the first man you meet on New Year’s Day is a priest, make sure your will is up to date, for death may soon follow.

Superstitions? Folklore? Exactly, but if you believe them, you’re not alone.

Humans have practiced and believed New Year’s superstitions for centuries, says a University of Wisconsin-Madison expert on folklore.

“Many of the things we celebrate have their origin in ancient practices,” said Harold Scheub, professor of African languages and literature. “There are hundreds of them. Some of them are really weird.”

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“The Old and the New Year,” by Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, depicting the old year 1885 changing to 1886. (Library of Congress photo)

For instance, Scheub said, it is believed a person who drops and breaks a light bulb on Christmas day will face financial ruin in the coming year. If a colored bulb is broken, a close relative will die, he said.

Sneezing on New Year’s is said to bring misfortune.

In many European countries, the first person to set foot in a home on New Year’s Day — dubbed the “first footer” — will determine what the new year will hold.

In Scotland, if the first footer is a redheaded man, the year will hold misfortune. A dark-haired man is preferable, Scheub said.

In years past, a lump of coal brought by a first footer was a good sign. “A lump of coal traditionally was something that was valued,” he said.

Many New Year’s superstitions and celebrations are rooted in the belief that the last week of the year is when spirits, fairies and witches roam the earth and the forces of nature can be influenced, he said.

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“The Old Year’s Legacy to the New,” pencil drawing by William Allen Rogers, showing the year changing from 1891 to 1892. (Library of Congress photo)

“At midnight on New Year’s Eve, strange things will happen,” Scheub said, relating the folklore. “It is one of the most magic times of the year.

“These are times nature is going through great stress,” he said. “We human beings are trying to have an influence on it.”

The noisemakers that sound off at parties when the clock strikes 12 were traditionally used to frighten off the evil spirits of the old year, he said.

“Trying to undo the horrors we’ve committed in the past — this seems to be what New Year’s always was,” Scheub said.

It is also said that anyone who ventures into the pasture at midnight will hear the cattle speaking the names of people who will die in the new year, he said.

New Year’s has also been the time that wishes were made for good crops and pregnancy. On New Year’s Eve in Germany, young boys would cut fresh boughs from a tree and ritually “beat” young girls. On New Year’s Day, the girls would reciprocate. It was thought to increase fertility, Scheub said.

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Professor Harold Scheub in the classroom in 2013. (University of Wisconsin-Madison photo)

In Java and some African countries, sham fights were staged between people representing the new year and those representing the old. Today’s bowl games are a similar representation, he said.

Even many Christmas traditions pre-date the time of Christ, according to Scheub.

The Christmas tree could have its origin in Norse countries, where people would place lighted candles in pine trees to keep the spirit of the forest alive until spring. Holiday candles could come from an old English tradition of extinguishing the hearth fire at New Year, then relighting the fires from a community bonfire.

“People all over the world practice these things in their own way,” Scheub said.

“All of these in one way or another are filled with hope,” he said. “We seem to need a period in our year when we say goodbye to the past.”

One last thing. If you wake up on January 1 with a splitting headache, what does that foretell for the New Year?

Have a little less to drink next year. ♦

– This article originally appeared on Page 1 of the December 31, 1988 issue of the Racine Journal Times. View the original newspaper pages.

Postscript: After a 43-year career, Scheub retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013.

— The images in the illustration atop this post are from the Library of Congress collections.

Remembering the Real Christopher Columbus

It seems every year the politically correct trot out a growing list of indictments against the great explorer Christopher Columbus. As we observe Columbus Day in the United States this October 12, some will claim Columbus was an oppressor. Others will wrongfully accuse him of racism. To get a real sense of why Columbus is under constant attack, remember that while he was a great explorer, he was first and foremost a faithful Catholic.

Some of the greatest minds in the history of the Church and the have spoken eloquently about the meaning of Columbus and his discovery of the New World in October 1492.

Christopher Columbus was "the destined herald of the true faith," according to Rev. John Hardon S.J.
Christopher Columbus was “the destined herald of the true faith,” according to Columbus scholar Rev. John Hardon S.J.

Father John M. Naughtin, who served as Wisconsin state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in the opening years of the 20th century, preached an eloquent sermon on Columbus on October 16, 1910 at St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine. Naughtin’s audience at that 8 a.m. Mass was a large gathering of Racine Knights of Columbus and their families. (See below for the full text.)

“The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deeds — Christopher mean- ing ‘Christ bearer’ — a messenger of peace,” Naughtin said. “Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe?”

Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical, Quarto Abeunte Saeculo, on the 400th anniversary of Landing Day. The Holy Father said this of Columbus: “The greatness of his mind and heart can be compared to but few in the history of humanity.”

The late Father John Hardon, S.J., an expert on Columbus, said the Genoa native  “was the instrument of extraordinary grace.” “It is one thing to say that Columbus discovered America,” Hardon said in 1992 on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. “It is something else to realize that he opened the door to the most phenomenal spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul.”

Hardon said Columbus’s “phenomenal career on earth was a heroic response to a sublime vocation. He was the destined herald of the true faith to half of the human race.”

Let’s remember this year to celebrate the real Columbus and ignore the nattering of the revisionists.

Homily of Rev. John M. Naughtin, October 16, 1910:

In the annals of history and tradition, no man stands forth more prominently than the man whose deeds we are commemorating today. For although Columbus has been dead about four hundred years, he is just beginning to be appreciated now. Only the infinite knowledge of God himself can grasp the meaning of the work of Columbus.

Father John M. Naughtin said Columbus "worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds."
Father John M. Naughtin (1854-1921) said Columbus “worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.”

Think of what this western world has developed into since Columbus’s time — the home of millions and the homes of millions yet to come — all the work of a simple, practical Catholic man, Christopher Columbus, the Genoese. A man who was not understood in his own country; who many times did not have enough to eat. Italy would not have him; it jeered at him and practically turned him out to find in Spain a welcoming hand and the substantial aid that made his great work possible.

America owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Spain. We are told of the deeds of the Caesars, of Napoleon and of Wellington, but all these figures were simply national — striving for one country, but Columbus is a worldwide character; he worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.

The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deed: Christopher meaning ‘Christ-bearer’ — a messenger of peace. Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe? In his youth, Columbus often sat by the seashore and wondered where and whence the great white winged ships came from. No doubt some had been on trips to the Holy Land and the Sepulchre and to follow in their footsteps became his one desire and that one thought dominated his life.

The Racine newspaper carried the account of Father Naughtin's sermon in its Oct. 17, 1910 editions.
The Racine newspaper carried the account of Father Naughtin’s sermon in its Oct. 17, 1910 editions.

Columbus did not belong to the 20th century class of explorers; he did not seek for material gain, but his great Catholic heart was filled with an overwhelming charity and love of God. He founded a home for people from every part of this world’s surface—for all colors, all races and conditions of men. His first act, upon reaching land, true, to his faith, was to fall upon his knees in devotion, dedicating this new world to the Almighty God. He did not crave acres of this new country, but rather that to the souls of these strangers might be brought the knowledge of God. Columbus was great — there have been none greater — but Columbus the Catholic was still greater. It was his faith which gave him the strength and the courage to undergo the trials of his explorations; to undergo, as Christ had undergone, the misrepresentations, the calumnies, the backbiting of his enemies and even to his returning to Spain in shackles after his wonderful trip which resulted in the discovery of a new land.

It is a good thing in this world of ours to have some model. The model we, the Knights of Columbus, have to imitate was, to be sure, a mere man, but great enough and powerful enough to do as God willed. The name Knights of Columbus is very appropriate—the word “knight” typifying everything that is admirable in a man, embracing all the manly qualities and this coupled with the name Columbus, has a wonderful significance.

Even as the attention of the stranger entering New York harbor is arrested by the Statue of Liberty towering for hundreds of feet and standing for the freedom of the new land, so does the greatness of Columbus tower im- measurably above that statue so that the whole world may gaze upon him, and gazing upon him, do him honor.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

FURTHER READING:

Jimmy the Groundhog Predicts Early Spring

SUN PRAIRIE, Wisconsin — With a temperature of minus 2 degrees and a fresh coating of 8 inches of snow on the ground, you might think Jimmy the Groundhog would have predicted six more weeks of winter. But alas, the world-famous weather prognosticator did not see his shadow, meaning an early spring. He did, however, take a vicious bite at Sun Prairie mayor Jon Freund, who served as the official translator for the esteemed Jimmy.

Sun Prairie Mayor Jon Freund recoils after being bitten on the ear by Jimmy the Groundhog.
Sun Prairie Mayor Jon Freund recoils after being bitten on the ear by Jimmy the Groundhog.
Freund wasn't too pleased with the bite from Jimmy.
Freund wasn’t too pleased with the bite from Jimmy, but the ceremony continued.

A modest crowd of hearty Groundhog Day fans gathered on Cannery Square to witness the 67th annual weather prognostication from Jimmy. Just after 7 a.m. Central time, Jimmy whispered to Freund that spring was coming. But before he did that, Jimmy bit the ear of the mayor, who recoiled in pain but quickly recovered his composure. After a quick apology from Jimmy, the ceremony continued.

Despite the clear skies, Freund said Jimmy did not see his shadow. A few minutes after the ceremony, the sun rose and cast February shadows on both man and beast. A Madison television station quoted Hahn as saying Jimmy did see his shadow. The city of Sun Prairie later issued a statement saying the mayor made the right call. The controversy led to speculation from some corners that video replay officials would be in attendance at next year’s Groundhog Day ceremony.

Folklore says that if a groundhog (also called a woodchuck or marmot) emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow, it will return to slumber in expectation of six more weeks of winter. If the day is cloudy and no shadow appears, spring will come early. According to a roundup on Wikipedia, predictions are pretty well split across North America for Groundhog Day 2015. Sun Prairie’s result is listed as “disputed.”

Jimmy made front-page news in The Troy Record in New York in 1970.
Jimmy made front-page news in The Troy Record in New York in February 1970.

Jimmy arrived in a stretch limousine with a Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department escort. Like a Hollywood star, Jimmy emerged from his limo to camera flashes and blaring lights from two television stations. He was accompanied by his handler, Jerry Hahn, who is retiring from the groundhog business after today. Hahn shed tears as Freund and others paid him tribute for serving as Jimmy’s caretaker since 2003. Jimmy will now be cared for by Jeff Gauger, owner of the Beans ’n Cream coffee house on Cannery Square. Gauger has a hobby farm.

Jerry Hahn pets Jimmy the Groundhog, who has been in his care since 2003.
Jerry Hahn pets Jimmy the Groundhog, who has been in his care since 2003.

Jimmy has been predicting weather in the Groundhog Capital of the World since 1948. The current Jimmy is the 11th burrowing rodent to serve as Sun Prairie’s weather forecaster. And while a certain East Coast groundhog gets most of the national media attention, Jimmy has a better than 80 percent accuracy rating. According to legend, he’s always accurate. It’s just the mayor does not always translate correctly from “groundhogese” to English.

Even with the bitter cold, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. When my late father, David D. Hanneman, was mayor from 2003-2005, he presided over two such ceremonies (see video above). In February 2005, Dad wore a tuxedo to go along with the mayor’s official groundhog top hat. The year before, Dad interviewed Jimmy before a large crowd. “What? You don’t like to be kissed? Well OK, I won’t kiss you then,” Dad said to laughter from the crowd.

Mayor David D. Hanneman with Jimmy the Groundhog at the February 2005 event. (Sun Prairie Star Photo)
Mayor David D. Hanneman with Jimmy the Groundhog in 2005. (Sun Prairie Star Photo)

View a complete photo gallery from today’s event below:

 ©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Eye on the Past: Merry Christmas 1942

Stevie Wilson and Laurni Lee Wilson made their own Christmas greeting in December 1942 with this photograph sent to their Uncle and Aunt, Carl and Ruby Hanneman of Mauston, Wisconsin. They even included greetings from their dog, Melissa. The Wilsons lived in Waukegan, Illinois, where the Hanneman family often visited. Stevie and Laurni Lee are the children of Lawrence and Nina (Treutel) Wilson. Nina is Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman’s sister. Merry Christmas!

©2014 The Hanneman Archive

Stevie Wilson and Laurni Lee Wilson made their own Christmas greeting in December 1942.
Stevie Wilson and Laurni Lee Wilson made their own Christmas greeting in December 1942.

Daughters Helped Bring ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ Message to Television

The Knights of Columbus has long championed the “Keep Christ in Christmas” message to remind the public that the “holiday season” is really about the birth of the Savior. Each year, the more than 14,000 local K of C councils promote the message with car magnets, yard signs, television ads and radio spots.

The Nativity mosaic was used on a billboard along Interstate 94 in 2009.
The Nativity mosaic was used on a billboard along Interstate 94 in 2009.

Back in 2010, I wanted to create a 30-second broadcast commercial with this message, but we had no production budget. I found a beautiful mosaic image from the Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The year before, I used that image to create a billboard we placed alongside Interstate 94 in Racine County, Wisconsin.

Many Knights of Columbus councils distribute "Keep Christ in Christmas" lawn signs.
Many Knights of Columbus councils distribute “Keep Christ in Christmas” lawn signs.

For the TV spot, we planned to use that still image with a pan-and-zoom “Ken Burns effect,” but I still needed voice talent and music. I looked no further than my then 11-year-old daughter, Ruby. She only needed a couple of takes to nail the script voiceover. My other daughter, Samantha, 14, took to her keyboard and recorded a section of “Greensleeves.” That is the tune used for the hymn What Child Is This? Once I put it all together, we had a very nice broadcast commercial, quite beautiful in its simplicity. The finished spot ran hundreds of times on a wide variety of cable television networks throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. You can watch the video in the player below.

Restoring Grandpa’s Handmade Nativity Scene

In the winter of 1966 or 1967, a young father designed and hand-crafted an outdoor nativity scene to decorate the family home in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. David D. Hanneman (1933-2007) painted the set freehand and put it on display just under the garage window of his home on Wisconsin Avenue. The nativity scene was a fixture at the home in those early years, but eventually was put in storage and forgotten.

The original Nativity scene as built by David D. Hanneman, circa 1967.
The original Nativity scene as built by David D. Hanneman, circa 1967.

Forty years later, after David Hanneman died, the badly weathered Nativity figures were rescued from a trash can in the garage. Over the next 18 months they were restored to almost original condition and put on display in the Village of Mount Pleasant.

The original backers and braces were removed from the cutout figures of St. Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus. New 1-inch-thick plywood backers were crafted with a jigsaw, then glued to the figures and anchored with wood screws. Heavy L-shape stabilizing braces were screwed into the backers to give the figures sufficient weight to withstand winter winds.

Samantha J. Hanneman retouches details on the Baby Jesus figure built by her grandfather, David. D. Hanneman.
Samantha J. Hanneman retouches details on the Baby Jesus figure built by her grandfather, David. D. Hanneman.

Samantha J. Hanneman, David Hanneman’s granddaughter, did most of the paint restoration work. With a special set of art brushes, she applied metallic gold and flat black paint to maintain the original look. Touch up paint was applied sparingly to the faces and hands of the figures to keep the hand-drawn details.

The newly restored Nativity scene was put on display at the Hanneman home in Racine County in December 2008, making the old tradition new again for another generation. The crèche was displayed for several years, but had to again be put in storage when we lost our home.  Now the figures again wait patiently to have a new home where their warm glow will fill the Christmas night.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first Nativity crib or crèche on Christmas Eve 1223 in Greccio, Italy. St. Francis was eager to make the birth of Christ something tangible for the faithful. He had a manger built, brought animals to be part of the set, and had Holy Mass said before this representation of the birth of Christ. After the preparations were finished, St. Francis and some of his followers went to the crèche for the Mass. After a short prayer by Francis, a vision of the Christ child appeared on the hay. The miracle stirred the animals and greatly moved the faithful who witnessed it.

©2014 The Hanneman Archive

A Look Back at Two Generations of Halloween

I have nothing but good memories of Halloween. Growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, October 31 was a date we looked forward to. Whether we got to buy a costume at the dime store or made our own, it was always an exciting night.

My brother David (left), yours truly at center at cousin Laura all set for Halloween at our home in Grand Rapids, Mich., circa 1964.
My brother David (left), yours truly at center at cousin Laura all set for Halloween at our home in Grand Rapids, Mich., circa 1964.

One of my most vivid Halloween memories was documented in my book, The Journey Home. I recall Dad tearing out the front door in his sock feet. I wondered what was happening. We figured it out a few minutes later when he dragged two teenagers into the front door and made them apologize for smashing our lit pumpkins. He then turned them over to Sun Prairie police.

We had one sad Halloween when my brother David fell into the neighbors tree well and spilled all of his candy. We all shared to make up for it. Another year, we went across town to “trick or treat” at a few houses of family friends. At one door, I was shocked that the lady who answered called me by name. “How does she know me with this costume on?” I wondered. My brother chimed in, “You forgot to put your mask down.” D’oh!

David C. Hanneman was a tiger for Halloween 1964.
David C. Hanneman was a tiger for Halloween 1964.

Perhaps the most fun we had was creating our own costumes. Lighting the end of a cork on fire, then using the charred remains to paint black whiskers on our faces. Stuffing pillows up an oversized shirt helped complete the hobo look.

It wasn’t until toward the end of my trick-or-treating days that the scare over supposed razor blades in candy apples occurred. Hospitals offered to X-ray candy bags to check for pins or razor blades. That made me wonder if the candy would then glow? Ah, as it turned out the whole thing was a fraud that took on the sheen of urban legend.

Son Stevie watches Grandpa Dave Hanneman prepare to carve, circa 1993.
Son Stevie watches Grandpa Dave Hanneman prepare to carve, circa 1993.

Once I had my own children, Halloween took on a new dimension. Our firstborn was too shy to go door to door, so we made our main stop at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Eventually, Halloween became a major event. French onion soup or chili simmered in a crock pot while we took the kids around the neighborhood collecting goodies. Then we retreated into the warmth of the house for good food, warm apple cider and pie. The kids also ate candy.

With the more recent controversies claiming Halloween as un-Christian or even satanic, it was refreshing to read this article on About.com regarding the Catholic roots of Halloween.

©2014 The Hanneman Archive