British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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8
NEW YEAR'S DAY.
[Jan. i.
dark hair are in the habit of going from house to house, on that day, to take the New Year in; for which they are treated with liquor, and presented with a small gratuity. So far is the apprehension carried, that some families will not open the door to any one until satisfied by the voice that he is likely to bring the house a year's good luck by entering it.
The most kindly and charitable woman in a neighbour­hood will strongly refuse to give any one a light on the morning of New Year's Day, as most unlucky to the one who gives it awav.—Harland and Wilkinson's Lancashire Folk-Lore, 1867, p. 214.
Isle of Man,
On this day an old custom, says Train in his History of the Isle of Man (1845, vol. ii. p. 115), is observed called the quaaltagh. In almost every parish throughout the island, a party of young men go from house to house singing the following rhyme:
"Again we assemble, a merry New Year To wish to each one of the family here, Whether man, woman, or girl, or boy, That long life, and happiness, all may enjoy, May they of potatoes and herrings have plenty, With battel and cheese, and each other dainty; And may their sleep never, by night or day, Disturbed be by even the tooth of a flea; Until at the Quaaltagh again we appear, To wish you, as now, all a happy New Year."
When these lines are repeated at the door, the whole party are invited into the house to partake of the best the family can afford. On these occasions a person of dark complexion always enters first, as a light-haired male or female is deemed unlucky to be the first-foot or quaaltagh on New Year's morning. The actors of the quaaltagh do not assume fantastic habiliments like the mummers of England, or the guisards of Scotland, nor do they, like these rude performers of the Ancient Mysteries, appear ever to have been attended by minstrels playing on different kinds of musical instru­ments.
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