Calendar Lore


ABOUT CALENDAR FOLKLORE


One of the most widely distributed items of folklore is related to the calendar. Ask the average person how many days there are in a particular month and they go straight into the old ditty ‘30 days has September..’

In the nineteenth century Australians lived by a calendar and seasonal guide known as an almanac. These booklets detailed the days of the month, holidays, sunrise and sunsets, best planting and reaping times etc and, considering that the average person did not own a watch and, especially in the bush, lighting was poor, this information was vital. It has even been suggested that the bushranger gangs, including the Kelly gang, might have consulted an almanac to determine which nights had a late sunset or moonlight. To say the pioneers were puzzled by our climate would be an understatement Ò they continually applied their British and Celtic lore, especially weather rhymes, to their new topsy-turvey homeland.

Superstitions have a long association with the calendar. We talk about Friday the 13th, Black Friday, Blue Monday and similar dark days, we celebrate various religious and social events on particular days including, as the opposite of the ‘dark’ Fridays we have Good Friday at Easter.

DAYS OF THE WEEK

Mournful Monday
Testing Tuesday
Woeful Wednesday
Thirsty Thursday
Frisky Friday
Sad Saturday
Sinful Sunday
Australian Journal. 1879
Monday for wealth
Tuesday for health
Wednesday the best day of all
Thursday for crosses
Friday for losses
Saturday for no luck at all.

Australian Journal. 1879

DATES OF THE MONTH

2 lovers sat beneath the shad
And 1 an 2 the other said
How 14 – 8 that you be 9
Hath smiled upon this suite of mine
If 5 a heart it beats 4 you
Your voice is mu 6 melody
Its 7 to thy loved 1 – 2
Say oh nymph wilt thy marry me?
Then lisped she soft why 13-ly

Australian Journal. 1879

FIRST OF THE MONTH

It is customary for Australians to recite: “A pinch and a punch for the first of the month” as they ‘pinch’ the victim as a form of greeting. As with such childhood games it is also possible to scream out ‘Barred!” or cross one’s fingers to make the attack void.

LEAP YEAR

This is a year with an extra day in order to synchronise with the seasons. It is added in February and, recalling the old rhyme of ’30 days’ we have the line ‘and February has 28 days and 29 in each Leap Year’. 2004 was a Leap year and the next will be 2008.

The lore associated with leap Year is that women are allowed to propose marriage in such years.

JUNE BRIDES

Brides traditionally get married in June as this is considered the luckiest month for weddings.

NAILS

From the Sydney Quarterly magazine 1889

View Words

WEATHER WISH

Star light star bright
First star I’ve seen tonight
Wish I may wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight
 Australian Journal. 1879

WEATHER LORE

View Words

STAR WISH

Star light star bright
First star I’ve seen tonight
Wish I may, wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.
    – Australian Journal 1879

THE THREE HOURS

Sydney is three hours before Melbourne
– our ‘arbour, our bridge and our opera house
   – From Robyn Ridley

BONFIRES OF SYDNEY

In the early days of the colony and through the 19th century was a custom to light massive bonfires on Christmas Eve. Most notable ones were at Glebe Point, Darlinghurst, Pyrmont and Rushcutters Bay.

THE DAY IT SNOWED IN SYDNEY

From the John Thompson papers/Mitchell Library. MSS AT44
The first reported snow fell 24thJuly 1836

SEVEN TIMES

From the Sydney Quarterly magazine 1889

View Words

SLEEP

Nature requires 5
Custom gives 7
Laziness takes 9
And wickedness makes 11

RITES OF PASSAGE

Sydneysiders, like all Australians, celebrate certain signposts in their lives. Some are connected to their religious observances and other are standard celebratory opportunities.

WEDDING WISDOM

Bridal Calendar 1842 cited in Pageant of Humour, pub Sydney n.d. circa 1920

A January bride will be a prudent housewife and sweet of temper.
A February bride will be am affectionate wife and a loving mother.
A March bride will be a frivolous chattermag, given to quarrelling.
An April bride is inconsistent, not over wise, and only fairly good looking.
A May bride is fair of face, sweet tempered and contented.
A June bride is impetuous and open handed.
A July bride is handsome but quick of temper
An August bride is sweet-tempered and active.
A September bride is discreet and forthcoming, beloved of all.
An October bride is is fair of face, affectionate but jealous.
A November bride is open-handed, kind-hearted, but inclined to be lawless.
A December bride is graceful in person, fond of novelty, fascinating, but a spendthrift

COCKNEY ALPHABET

The Cockney’s Alphabet is based on rhyming slang. It has also been called the Cabbies’ Alphabet or the Subversive Alphabet.

The source of the alphabet varies – some people attribute it to English radio comedians Clapham and Dwyer who recorded a version called the Surrealist Alphabet in the 1930s, others credit it to a recording by the 1930s English music hall duo of Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen.

In The English Language by David Crystal (Cambridge 1995) there is a version credited to New Zealand-born linguistics academic Eric Partridge, who included it in his book of Comic Alphabets published in 1961.

Its been attributed to parents or childhoods in the UK, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Lancashire, Newcastle, New Zealand, Sydney and country NSW and Australia generally, and many recall learning it while in the Army during the World War 11, or from those who were.

Here are the most popular versions. The most frequently recalled ones (those most likely to be the definitive originals) are listed first, with variations following.