British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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504                                new year's eve.                     [Dec. 31,
On this night also, in many parts of this county, as well as in Derbyshire, a muffled peal is rung on the church bells till twelve o'clock, when the bandages are removed from the bells whilst the clock is striking, and a merry peal is instantly struck up; this is called " ringing the old year out and the new year in."—Jour, of the Arch. Assoc, 1853, vol. viii. p. 230.
It is a custom at Merton College, says Pointer, in his Oxoniensis Accidentia (1749, p. 24), on the last night in the year (called Scrutiny Night), for the college servants, all in a body, to make their appearance in the hall before the warden and fellows (after supper), and there to deliver up the keys, so that if they have committed any great crime in the year their keys are taken away, and consequently their places, otherwise they are of course delivered to them again.
At the opening of the scrutiny the senior Bursar makes this short speech:
In hoc scrutinio hsec tria sunt proponenda, Mores servientium—numerus Portionistarum, Electio Hortulanorum.
Isle of Wight.
At Yarmouth the following doggerel is sung at the season of the new year :
" Wassal, wassal to our town! The cup is white and the ale is brown; The cup is made of the ashen tree, And so is the ale of the good barley; Little maid, little maid, turn the pin, Open the door and let us come in; God be here, God be there, I wish you all a Happy New Year."
HalliwelPs Popular Rhymes, 1849, p. 236.
At Bradford it is the practice of men and women, dressed in strange costumes, with blackened faces, and besoms in hand, to enter houses on New Year's Eve so as to " sweep out the old year,''—N. & Q. 5/A S. vol. i. p. 383.
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