Earlier this fall when I began writing Raisin Pie by Rosemary, I realized Pennsylvania Dutch superstitions and customs would play a large role in the story. Rosemary Mast, my heroine, was a German from near Pittsburgh. Germans who settled there were mistakenly referred to as Dutch--something to do with their native word for 'German'. She was raised to believe in some odd things. I knew this would make for a different and fun romance.
Wolf dropped the scythe. He ran toward them. All three had linked arms and were admiring whatever they had done to his barn.
They stepped back when he approached. Rosemary beamed her pleasure as she pointed at the barn. “The curse,” she said as if that explained a dried toad nailed to his barn.
“What kind of witchcraft is this?” he bellowed.
The twins yelled out in surprise and then fear. He noticed their movements and saw them hide their faces in the dark fabric of Rosemary’s skirt. She patted each and made a shushing sound.
Wolf waited. After only a few seconds, Rosemary growled, “I am no witch. Everyone knows that a toad’s foot must be nailed to the barn to get rid of something tormenting you.”
She looked at him. “Don’t you feel tormented?”
“You don’t want me to answer that,” he huffed.
Not only did I need to research superstitions, but I knew I wanted this to be a heart-warming Christmas story. That meant Rosemary's holiday traditions would need to seem 'strange' to her very American husband.
Why hang the tree? Mice! The upside down tree kep rodents from reaching the popcorn garland used as a decoration. At least, that is one guess for why the custom was practiced. Even so, the reason is not nearly as interesting to me as the fact that the custom actually exists!
My hero in the book is not at all happy with the notion of suspending the tree from the ceiling--
Wolf stared, one eyebrow arched in question. She blushed and shook her head, not sure what to say. “Uh, the tree. Yes, let’s hang the tree.”
“No, we don’t hang trees,” he said in a voice that told her he was repeating himself. “It needs to stand in a bucket. The tree will need water. Otherwise, it ‘ll turn brown.”
“At home, we hung the tree using ropes. If you make it stand, the tree will be upside down.”
Once more, Wolf groaned. “Your idea is upside down!”
In my book, Wolf (the hero) urges Rosemary to move beyond fear represent by her many superstitions. It is certainly a Christmas story written from a Christian worldview.
Superstitions have become a way of life for Rosemary. Can she leave behind those ideas to please her new husband?