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In the old days there were not the leisure time options that we take for granted today for after hours and weekend relaxation. Does that mean that the lives of the folks back then were monotonous and boring? Not on your life! Tradition had thoughtfully arranged that work-filled weekdays would be followed by joyous, lighthearted holidays which could provide a change and the strength needed to return to the tiring work which would follow the holiday. Most of the holidays seem to bunch up in late fall or winter. Among the more prominent is Luca Day on December 13th. There are differing opinions about Luca's personality. Some hold that she was a witch, but it also has been suggested that she was a Saint. Fact is that part of that day was strenuously devoted to witch-avoidance measures. This is also the reason why a long list of taboos was associated with her, and why Luca Day was one of prohibitions.
It was forbidden to light a fire or to sew because Luca would punish that by sewing up the hens so they could no longer lay any eggs. It was forbidden to spin or weave because Luca would mix up all the yarns, and change them into oakum, and she would also replace the violator's brain with oakum. Some masqueraded as Luca by covering themselves with a white sheet and wearing a sieve on their head or in front of their face. Attired as Luca one could then go about supervising the young ones and shaming the slothful.
On Luca Day the process of making the Luca Chair was started. It looked more like a step stool, had no arms or backrest, and was one of the principal tools used in witch-spotting. The stool had to be made of nine different kinds of wood, and had to have just a bit of work done to it from December 13 right up to Christmas. This gave birth to a Hungarian lament when things don't progress very fast: "Készül, mint a Luca széke " (it is getting done [slowly] like Luca's chair).
On Christmas Eve, standing on the Luca Chair during Midnight Mass you can pick out the witches in the crowd because they wear horns for this occasion. Immediately after though, one must run home and throw the chair into the fire because any owner of a Luca Chair will be torn apart by the witches.
There are also certain beliefs associated with Luca Day:
The girls make out Luca Slips, little pieces of paper with a boy's name on each. These must be worked into the dumpling dough, and when cooking the dumplings the first dumpling to rise to the surface will contain the name of the girl's future husband.
Sowing Luca Wheat. You have to plant exactly 100 grains of wheat in a container. They will sprout by Christmas and indicate how next year's crop will do.
Noting the weather of the 12 days following Luca Day will predict the weather for each one of the 12 months of the coming year.
Even today in some places young men engage in the custom of clucking. They do not wear a costume but carry a bundle of straw or a piece of wood under one arm and go knocking on doors. They will kneel on the straw or the wood and recite a poem which has the words arranged so as to sound like clucking poultry. The words, in effect, wish the householder a bounty of any imaginable produce, but towards the end they pray to God to continue providing wheels for their carriages, and bottoms to their wine glasses so they may continue drinking from them aplenty.
Based on a Hungarian story written by Orisekné Honfi Mária for the the Pázmánd Hírvivõ, Dec 1993.
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