British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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4                                     NEW year's DAY.                            [JAN. I.
in placing a crown-piece under the plate of each of the chaplains in waiting on New Year's Day, and that this custom had ceased early in the nineteenth century.
The New Year's gifts, says Chambers (Book of Days, vol. i. p. 31), presented by individuals to each other were suited to sex, rank, situation, and circumstances. From Bishop Hall's Satires (1598), it appears that the usual gift of tenantry in the country to their landlords was a capon ; and Cowley, addressing the same class of society says:
" Ye used in the former days to fall Prostrate to your landlord in his hall, When with low legs, and in an humble guise, Ye offer'd up a capon sacrifice Unto his worship, at a New Year's tide."
Ben Jonson, in his Christmas Masque, among other cha­racters introduces " New Year's gift in a blue coat, serving-man like, with an orange, and a sprig of rosemary on his head, his hat full of brooches, with a collar of ginger­bread, his torch-bearer carrying a marchpane, with a bottle of wine on either arm." An orange stuck with cloves was a common present, and is explained by Lupton, who says that the flavour of the wine is improved, and the wine itself preserved from mouldiness, by an orange or lemon stuck with cloves being hung within the vessel, so as not to touch the liquor.
When pins were first invented, and brought into use about the beginning of the sixteenth century, they were a New Year's gift very acceptable to ladies, instead of the wooden skewers which they had hitherto used. Some­times, however, in lieu of pins, they received a composition in money, called pin money, an expression which has been extended to a sum of money secured by a husband on his marriage for the private expenses of his wife.
Gloves, too, were customary New Year's gifts. They were far more expensive than nowadays, and occasionally a sum of money was given instead, which was called glove money.
A hundred years ago, the Poet Laureate not only wrote a New Year's ode, by way of salutation to the sovereign and royal family, but those illustrious personages sat in state
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