British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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502                               new year's eve.                     [Dec. 31.
the bounty " they were wont to have in old King Edward's days." No tradition exists as to the origin of this custom. The donation was twopence or a pie at every house.— Hutchinson, History of Cumberland, 1794, vol. i. p. 570, note.
On New Year's Eve a cold possett, as it is called, made of milk, ale, eggs, currants, and spice, is prepared, and in it is placed the wedding-ring of the hostess; each of the party takes out a ladle full, and in doing so takes every precaution to fish up the ring, as it is believed that whoever is fortunate enough to " catch " the ring will be married before the year is out. On the same night it is customary in some districts to throw open all the doors of the house just before midnight, and to wait for the coming year, as for an honoured guest, by meeting him as he approaches, and crying, " Welcome! —Jour, of the Arch. Assoc. 1852, vol. vii. p. 201.
On New Year's Eve the wassailers go about carrying with them a large bowl, dressed up with garlands and ribbons, and repeat the following song :
" Wassail! wassail! all over the town, Our toast it is white, our ale it is brown, Our bowl it is made of a maplin tree; We be good fellows all, I drink to thee.
Here's to our horse, and to his right ear, God send our maister a happy New Year; A happy New Year as e'er he did see— With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.
Here's to our mare and to her right eye, God send our mistress a good Christmas pye: A good Christmas pye as e'er I did see— With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.
Here's to Fill pail [cow] and to her long tail, God send our measter us never may fail Of a cup of good beer, I pray you draw near, And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear.
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