The following selection of quotes come from Yule Tides in Many Lands, Mary P. Pringle and Clara A. Urann, Boston, 1916, Project Gutenberg, pages 50-51.
“England of all countries has probably known the merriest of Yule-tides, certainly the merriest during those centuries when the mummers of yore bade to each and all
“A merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
Your pockets full of money and your cellar full of beer.”
There seems always to have been more or less anxiety felt regarding New Year’s Day in England, for “If the morning be red and dusky it denotes a year of robberies and strife.”
“If the grass grows in Janivear
It grows the worse for ‘t all the year.”
It was very desirable to obtain the “cream of the year” from the nearest spring, and maidens sat up till after midnight to obtain the first pitcherful of water, supposed to possess remarkable virtues. Modern plumbing and city water-pipes have done away with the observance of the “cream of the year,” although the custom still prevails of sitting up to see the Old Year out and the New Year in.
There was also keen anxiety felt as to how the wind blew on New Year’s Eve, for
“If New Year’s Eve night wind blow South,
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If West, much milk, and fish in the sea;
If North, much cold and storm there will be;
If East, the trees will bear much fruit;
If Northeast, flee it man and brute.””
Celebrating New Year’s on Martha Stewart’s site discusses the origins of ringing in the new year with a toast.
The custom of toasting, as we know it today, originated in medieval England. Back then, the clinking of glasses was accompanied by the exclamation “Waes haeil,” Middle English for “Be well.” The word toast, in this context, came along in the seventeenth century, when pieces of spiced, toasted bread were placed in drinks, perhaps to enhance their flavor. Today, people throughout the world toast the New Year, but without the croutons of times past.
- Click here for another New Year’s post on this site.