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According to N&Q (5s:6 (1876), 24), it was the custom for the mother of a newly christened baby in 19th-century Cumberland to give a tea to her neighbours. When they were ready to leave, a bucket was placed in the doorway which all the women had to jump over. If they stumbled or tripped it was taken as a sign that they were pregnant. Over 50 years later, but referring to the ‘old days’, another reference to Cumberland (Folk-Lore 40 (1929), 279) describes a similar situation but with the different detail that the bucket held a lighted candle, and if the draught of a woman's skirts put the candle out ‘it was taken as an omen she would be the next to require the midwife’. Another variant was for a besom to be placed across two buckets, and jumped over. The link between pregnancy and the domestic bucket is confirmed by a comment from a young Yorkshire woman reported in Opie and Tatem—‘Jump over a bucket to bring on labour’.

Opie and Tatem, 1989: 46.

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