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.                                  15
ceremony to the old one, or an introduction to the New Year, 1 can't tell; but on the 31st of December, almost everybody has a party, either to dine or sup. The company, almost entirely consisting of young people, wait together till twelve o'clock strikes, at which time every one begins to move, and they all fall to work. At what? why, kissing. Each male is successively locked in pure Platonic embrace with each female; and after this grand ceremony, which of course creates infinite fun, they separate and go home. This matter is not at all confined to these, but wherever man meets woman it is the particular privilege of this hour. The common people tbink it necessary to drink what they call hot-pint, which consists of strong beer, whisky, eggs, &c.; a most horrid composition; as bad, or worse than that infamous mixture called Jig-one* which the English people drink on Good Friday."
The letter from which this is an extract is signed Henry Beckersteth, and dated Edinburgh, January 1st, 1802.
Till very few years ago, in Scotland (says a correspondent of Chambers' Book of Days, vol. i. p. 28), the custom of first-footing was practised on New Year's morning.
On the approach of twelve o'clock of the last night of the old year, a hot-pint f was prepared—that is, a kettle or flagon full of warm, spiced, and sweetened ale, with an infusion of spirits. When the clock had struck the knell of the departed year, each member of the family drank of this mixture, " and good health, and a happy New Year, and many of them, to all the rest," with a general hand-shaking, and perhaps a dance round the table, with the addition of a song to the tune of Hey tuttie taitie:
a Weel may we a' be, 111 may we never see. Here's to the king And the gude companie V9 &o.
The elders of the family would then most probably sally out with the hot kettle, and bearing also a competent provision of buns and short-bread, or bread-and-cheese, with
* Doubtless a misprint for fig-sue. See under Good Friday. t Called also a het-pint. Time's Telescope, 1824, p. 3
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