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A bizarre story about an old "Christmas tradition" between husband and wife is roaming around Facebook.
The post features what appears to be a dated, black-and-white image of five women kneeling in front of a line of men who are supposedly their husbands with text above that reads:
"At Christmas women used to apologize to their husbands for all the mistakes they made during the year and beg for forgiveness … let’s not let this beautiful custom get lost.."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We could find no evidence in internet searches or archived news databases that support the claim that women used to "beg" for their husbands forgiveness during the holidays. The image has been shared online for years, with the Christmas tradition description being attached to it later on.
Previous postings of the image contain different explanations as to what’s going on in the photo. A reverse-image search showed that it was widely circulated on various websites in 2014 with captions that simply said "women begging men" (with no mention of Christmas, marital relationships, or forgiveness).
It has also been shared on many Russian-language websites for years. In one 2017 posting, the caption translates to:
"Etiquette a century ago. Ladies invite gentlemen to the White Dance, 1900."
Jim Leary, emeritus professor of folklore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told PolitiFact that he hasn’t ever encountered evidence of any seasonal tradition like the one described in the Facebook post.
Leary said there are major seasonal traditions, such as the Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur, where atonement and forgiveness figure, but he is only aware of reciprocal practices, rather than one-way traditions regarding forgiveness between couples.
He called "ridiculous" the claim that "‘women’ (what women? since not all women share the same traditions) apologized so abjectly to their husbands, who the implication is had nothing to apologize for" and said it sounded more like a "patriarchal fantasy" than anything based in reality.
What’s more, this version of the image we saw on Facebook included, in hard-to-read type, the words "Shitz & Giggles" in the lower portion of the photo, with the url "facebook.com/theshiggles," an account that says it posts "comedy, memes, humor and other stuff to make you laugh out loud." Despite that, commenters who found the item shared by a non-comedy account wondered if it was real. (The url was not live.)
We were not able to track down the photo’s precise origin and these descriptions are devoid of any citations or supporting details that can be verified. But there is no credible evidence that supports the claim that women asked for their husbands’ forgiveness as part of any Christmas "custom."
For those reasons, we rate this rumor False.
Facebook post, Dec. 9, 2019
Nexis search, Dec. 10, 2019
Tin Eye, reverse-image search, Dec. 10, 2019
TruthorFiction, Christmas Tradition of Women Begging Their Husbands for Forgiveness?, Feb. 24, 2019
Email interview, Jim Leary Emeritus Professor of Folklore and Scandinavian Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dec. 10, 2019
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