In the cold, dark winters days the birth of the Christ Child gave renewed hope to Christians and heralded the coming of spring. It was also the time of magic when superstitious people believed fairies, elves, witches and goblins roamed the land, and the ghosts of the departed visited their previous homes. On Christmas Day families cleaned their houses, set the tables and put meals on them before they went to church. They believed that if their ancestors approved of the preparations for their welcome the New Year would be happy and prosperous. On the other hand, shrieking winds which sounded like the howling voices of lost souls, who it was believed traversed the world, gave rise to legends such as The Wild Hunt or The Raging Hunt.
Other customs could be equally frightening. An ivy leaf submerged in water from the 31st December to the 5th of January foretold the future. If the leaf remained as fresh as it was when put in the water it foretold good health, if not it predicted the reverse.
Another custom was that of a girl, who wanted to get married, going to the hen house on Christmas Eve and rapping on the door. If the cockerel crowed the girl believed she would marry, but if a hen clucked she feared being a spinster for as long as she lived.