British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Jan. i.]                         new year's day.                                 5
at St. James's, and heard it, as it was sung by celebrated vocalists, for whom it had been composed by some expert in music. Now that the Laureate's song would be worth the listening to, we have none written especially for the New Year. This musical festival has ceased to be.—JV. & Q. 4:th S. vol. xi. p. 8.
Latterly, New Year's Day has been celebrated with but little public festivity, the only open joyous demonstration being the sound of merry peals from the church, bells, as they ring out the Old and ring in the New Year.
Many persons make a point of wearing new clothes on this day, and consider any omission of the kind unlucky. At court it is one of the twelve Offering Days.Med. AEvi Kalend. Hampson, 1841, vol. i. p. 33.
In the North of England it is considered unlucky for any inmate to go out of the house until some one from with­out has entered it; and the first foot across the threshold is watched with great anxiety, the good or bad luck of the house during the year, depending on the first comer being a man or a woman.—N. & Q. 2nd S. vol. xi. p. 244.
Opening the Bible on this day is a superstitious practice observed in some parts of the country, and much credit is attached to it. It is usually set about with some little ceremony on the morning, before breakfast, as it must be performed fasting. The Bible is laid on the table unopened, and the parties who wish to consult it are then to open it in succession. They are not at liberty to choose any particular part of the book, but must open it at random. Wherever this may happen to be, the inquirer is to place his finger on any chapter contained in the two open pages, but without any previous perusal or examination. It is believed that the good or ill fortune, the happiness or the misery, of the consulting party, during the ensuing year, will be in some way or other described and foreshown by the contents of the chapter. The custom is called dipping.Pop. Antiq. Brand, 1849, vol. i. p. 20; N. & Q. 2nd S. vol.xii. p. 303.
It is customary in some places for persons to carry about decorated apples, and present them to their friends. The apples have three skewers of wood stuck into them, so as to form a tripod foundation; and their sides are ornamented
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