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D.E. Marvin, comp. Curiosities in Proverbs. 1916.

Christmas and Easter Proverbs


A black Christmas makes a fat churchyard. (English, Scotch).
See Weather Proverbs: “A green Christmas makes a fat churchyard.”
It is an old superstition, without any foundation in fact, that a Christmas without snow will be followed by much illness and many deaths. Sometimes it is said, “A green winter makes a fat churchyard.” (English, Scotch). “A shepherd would rather see his wife enter the stable on Christmas Day than the sun.” (German). “A mild winter makes a full graveyard.” (Chinese).

After Christmas comes Lent. (English, German).
Festivities may begin at Christmas, but they must end at Lent.

A gowk at Yule’ll no be bright at Beltane. (Scotch).
He who is a fool at Christmas will not grow wise by the first of May.

A green Christmas, a white Easter. (German).

Another year will bring another Christmas. (Danish).

As bare as the birk at Yule even. (English, Scotch).
This proverb is applied to people in extreme poverty and refers to the Christmas log. It was the custom in old England to bring a ponderous log from the forest on Christmas Eve and burn it in the great fireplace. As the log was drawn along the road men lifted their hats in respect, knowing that its consumption symbolized the forgiveness of injuries and renewing confidences. When the log was half burned the charred remains were carried away and carefully preserved until the next Christmas when they were used to kindle the new block.

  • “Come bring with a noise,
  • My merry, merry boys,
  • The Christmas log to the firing,
  • While my good dame she,
  • Bids you all be free,
  • And drink to your heart’s desiring.
  • “With the last year’s brand
  • Light the new block, and
  • For good success in its spending,
  • On your psalteries play
  • That sweet luck may
  • Come while the log is a tending.”
  • Robert Herrick.
  • As dark as a Yule midnight. (Scotch).

    As fushionless as rue leaves at Yule. (Scotch).
    “I followed my guide, but not, as I had supposed, into the body of the cathedral. ‘This gate—this gate, sir,’ he exclaimed, dragging me off as I made toward the main entrance of the building. ‘There’s but cauldrife law-work gaun on yonder—carnal morality, as dow’d and as fusionless as rue leaves at Yule. Here’s the real saviour of doctrine.’”—Sir Walter Scott: Rob Roy, Chapter xx.

    At Michaelmas time, or a little before, half an apple goes to the core; at Christmas time, or a little after, a crab in the hedge and thanks to the grafter. (English).

    At Yule and Pasch, and high times. (Scotch).
    The contemplated course of action should be reserved for a notable occasion; the garment should be worn at a more appropriate time.

    A warm Christmas, a cold Easter; a green Christmas, a white Easter. (German).

    A Yule feast may be quat at Pasche. (Scotch).
    “A Christmas feast may be paid again at Easter.” (English).

    Between Martinmas and Yule, water’s wine in every pool. (Scotch).
    That is between November 11th and December 25th.

    Christmas comes but once a year. (English).
    It is also said, “New Year comes once a twelvemonth.” (English, Italian).

  • “At Christmas play and make good cheer,
  • For Christmas comes but once a year.”
  • Thomas Tusser.
  • “For Christmas comes but once a year,
  • And then they shall be merry.”
  • George Wither.
  • Christmas has been talked of so long that it has come at last. (French).

    Every day is no’ Yule-day; cast the cat a castock. (Scotch).
    A castock is the stalk or core of a cabbage.
    People should be generous at Christmas time and spare no expense in entertaining their friends. They should not only give what is needful for the comfort of their guests but that which may be as useless to them as cabbage cores to cats. Christmas comes but once a year and the opportunity for liberality may never come again. The proverb as used by the Italians and Dutch is without the phrase “Cast the cat a castock.”

    Ghosts never appear on Christmas Eve. (English).

    He has more business than English ovens at Christmas. (English, Italian).

  • “Now all our neighbours’ chimneys smoke,
  • And Christmas blocks are burning;
  • Their ovens they with baked meat choke,
  • And all their spits are turning.
  • Without the door let sorrow lye;
  • And if for cold it hap to die,
  • We’ll bury ’t in a Christmas-pie.
  • And evermore be merry.”
  • George Wither.
  • He’s a fool that marries at Yule, for when the bairn’s to bear the corn’s to shear. (Scotch).

    He that maketh at Christmas a dog his larder, and in March a sow his gardener, and in May a fool a keeper of wise counsel, he shall never have good larder, fair garden, nor well kept counsel. (English).

    If Candlemas Day be dry and fair, the half o’ winter’s to come and mair; if Candlemas Day be wet and foul, the half o’ winter’s gane at Yule. (Scotch).
    Candlemas Day, February 2d.
    “A windy Christmas and a calm Candlemas are signs of a good year.” (English).

    If Christmas Day on a (Sunday) fall; a troublous winter we shall have all. (English).

  • “Lordinges, I warne you al beforne,
  • Yef that day that Chryste was borne,
  • Falle upon a Sunday;
  • The wynter shall be good par fay,
  • But grete wyndes alofte shalbe,
  • The somer shall be fayre and drye.”
  • Harleian MSS.
  • It is supposed by some that “Monday” instead of “Sunday” was used in the original proverb.
  • “If Christmas Day on Monday be,
  • A greater winter that year you’ll see,
  • And full of winds both loud and shrill;
  • But in summer, truth to tell,
  • High winds shall there be, and strong,
  • Full of tempests lasting long;
  • While battles they shall multiply
  • And great plenty of beasts shall die.”
  • Harleian MSS.
  • If Christmas Day on Thursday be, a windy winter you shall see, windy winter in each week, and hard tempests strong and thick. (English).

    If Christmas finds a bridge, he’ll break it; if he finds none, he’ll make one. (American).

    If ice will bear a man before Christmas, it will not bear a mouse afterward. (English).

    If the geese at Martin’s Day stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas. (English).
    St. Martin’s Day, November 11th.

    If the wind is south-west at Martinmas, it keeps there till after Christmas. (English).

    I’ll bring Yule belt to the Beltane belt. (Scotch).
    I’ll not over-eat at Christmas even though there is plenty, but will control my appetite and take no more than I will have in May when meat will be scarce.

    It is eith to cry Yule on anither man’s cost. (Scotch).
    It is easy to cry Christmas on another man’s cost.
    James Kelly renders the proverb “It is eith crying Yule, under another man’s stool” and says that “It is spoken when we see people spend liberally what is not their own.”

    Light Christmas, light wheat sheaf; dark Christmas, heavy wheat sheaf. (English).
    Light Christmas probably refers to the full or new moon shining at Christmas time.

    Now’s now, and Yule’s in winter. (Scotch, English).
    “A return to them that say ‘Now’ by way of resentment; a particle common in Scotland.”—James Kelly.

    St. Andrew the King, three weeks and three days before Christmas comes in. (English).
    St. Andrew’s Day is November 30th.

    The bag to the auld stent, and the belt to the Yule hole. (Scotch).
    Stent—i.e., extent or allotted portion.
    The saying is used to express hunger and is equivalent to saying “My appetite is as great now as at a Christmas feast.”

    The devil makes his Christmas pie of lawyers’ tongues and clerks’ fingers. (English).

    They keep Christmas all the year. (English).

    They talk of Christmas so long that it comes. (English).

    ’Tween Martinmas and Yule, water’s wine in every pool. (Scotch).
    Between November 11th and December 25th rain is so important that its value may be compared to the value of wine.

    When Yule comes, dule comes, cauld feet and legs; when Pasch comes grace comes, butter, milk, and eggs. (Scotch).

    Whitsunday wet, Christmas fat. (English).
    Whitsunday—the seventh Sunday and fiftieth day after Easter.

    Yule is come, and Yule is gone, and we have feasted well; so Jack must to his flail again, and Jenny to her wheel. (English, Scotch).

    Yule is young on Yule even, and auld on Saint Steven. (Scotch).
    Applied to people who are fond of novelties and make much ado over them, but whose interest is transient.
    St. Stephen’s Day occurs on December 26th.

    Yule’s good on Yule even. (English).
    Everything in its season.
    See Proverbs Suggested by the Bible: “There is a time for all things.”


    A good deal of rain on Easter Day gives a good crop of corn but little hay. (English).
  • “Rain on Easter Day
  • Plenty of grass, but little good hay.” (English).
  • “Rain on Good Friday or Easter Day,
  • A good crop of grass, but a bad one of hay.” (English).
  • “A rainy Easter betokens a good harvest.” (French). “Rain at Easter gives slim fodder.” (English).

    At Shrove Tuesday supper if thy belly be full, before Easter Day thou mayest fast for that. (Isle of Man).
    “On Shrove Tuesday night, though thy supper be fat, before Easter Day thou may’st fast for all that.” (Another rendering): “Rejoice, Shrovetide, today, for tomorrow you’ll be ashes.” (English).
    Shrove Tuesday—the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, known in old England as “Pancake Day.” About noon, often earlier, on Shrove Tuesday, a bell, sometimes called “Pancake Bell,” was rung. The ringing of the bell was probably intended originally to call the people to confession before Lent. After confession they were permitted to make merry with one another. As there would be no later opportunity to feast before Lent, the time was given over to excessive enjoyment, eating and drinking. It is not surprising that the noon bell should have come to be regarded as a signal for everyone to stop work and begin feasting, particularly on pancakes, as such cakes were regarded as essential to the day’s festivities; hence the above proverbs.
    “Shrove Tuesday, at whose entrance in the morning all the whole kingdom is in quiet, but by that time the clock strikes eleven, which (by the help of a knavish sexton) is commonly before nine, then there is a bell rung, cal’d the Pancake-bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted, and forgetful either of manners or humanity; then there is a thing called wheaten floure, which the cookes do mingle with water, eggs, spice, and other tragical, magical enchantments, and then they put it by little and little into a frying pan of boiling suet, where it makes a confused dismal hissing (like the Lernian snakes in the reeds of Acheron, Stix, or Phlegeton), until at last by the skill of the cooke, it is transformed into the form of a Flip-Jack cal’d a pancake, which ominous incantation the ignorant people doe devoure very greedily.”—John Taylor.
    “As fit as ten groats is for the hand of an attorney, as your French crown for your taffeta punk, as Tib’s rush for Tom’s forefinger, as a pancake for Shrove Tuesday.”—Shakespeare: All’s Well That Ends Well.

    Care Sunday, care away, Palm Sunday and Easter Day. (English).

    Easter comes early, or Easter comes late, is sure to make the old cow quake. (English).

  • “Let Easter come early, or let it come late,
  • It ’ull sure to make the old cow quake.” (English).

  • Cow-quake—quaking grass or common spurry.
  • “Come it early or come it late,
  • In May comes the cow-quake.” (English).
  • Easter in snow, Christmas in mud; Christmas in snow, Easter in mud. (English).

    He who wants Lent to seem short should contract a debt to be repaid at Easter. (Italian).

    If Easter falls in Lady-day’s lap, beware, O England, of a clap. (English).
    Sometimes rendered: “When Easter Day falls on our Lady’s lap, then let England beware a rap.”
    Lady’s Day, March 25th.
    Francis Grose refers to this proverb as having come into use after the Reformation and intended as a prophecy, “intimating,” says he, “that the Virgin Mary, offended at the English nation for abolishing the worship offered her before that event, waited for an opportunity of revenge, and when her day, the twenty-fifth of March, chanced to fall on the same day with Christ’s resurrection, then she, strengthened by her son’s assistance, would inflict some remarkable punishment.”
    The old superstition or prophecy has been repeatedly found to have been without foundation. While calamity and great distress have sometimes been the portion of the English nation during the years when Easter fell on March 25th, blessings that called for joy and thanksgiving have quite as frequently followed the event.

    If the wind’s i’ th’ East of Easter dee, yo’ll ha plenty o’ grass, but little good hee. (English).

    Late Easter; long, cold spring. (English).

    Owe money on Easter and Lent will seem short to you. (Spanish).

    Past Easter frost, fruit not lost. (English).

    Septuagesima says you nay, eight days from Easter says you may. (English).
    Septuagesima Sunday, third Sunday before Lent.
    The allusion is to the proper season for marriage.

  • “Advent marriage doth deny,
  • But Hilary gives the liberty;
  • Septuagesima says thee nay,
  • Eight days from Easter says you may;
  • Rogation bids thee to contain,
  • But Trinity sets thee free again.”—Old Rhyme.
  • The monk having observed Easter, returns to his beans. (Modern Greek).
    This proverb is applied to people who have performed certain public duties and met certain obligations to the best of their ability and have returned to a quiet life again conscious that they have earned rest and retirement.

    White Easter brings green Christmas. (English).

    You keep Easter when I keep Lent. (English).