British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Dec. 31.]                      new year's eve.                               505
Hogmanay is the universal popular name in Scotland for the last day of the year. It is a day of high festival among young and old—but particularly the young, who do not regard any of the rest of the Daft Days with half so much interest. It is still customary, in retired and primitive towns, for the children of the poorer class of people to get themselves on that morning swaddled in a great sheet, doubled up in front, so as to form a vast pocket, and then to go along the streets in little bands, calling at the doors of the wealthier classes for an expected dole of oaten bread. Each child gets one quadrant section of oat-cake (sometimes, in the case of particular cases, improved by an addition of cheese), and this is called their hogmanay. In expectation of the large demands thus made upon them, the housewives busy themselves for several days beforehand in preparing a suitable quantity of cakes. The children, on coming to the door, cry " Hogmanay !" which is in itself a sufficient announcement of their demands ; but there are other excla­mations, which either are or might be used for the same purpose. One of these is :
" Hogmanay, Trollolay, Give us of your white bread, and none of your grey!"
What is precisely meant by the word hogmanay, or by the still more inexplicable trollolay, has been a subject fertile in dispute to Scottish antiquaries, as the reader will find by an inspection of the Archceologia Scotica. A suggestion of the late Professor Eobison of Edinburgh seems the best, that the word hogmanay was derived from Au qui menez, (" To the misletoe go"), which mummers formerly cried in France at Christmas. Another suggested explanation is, Au queux menez—that is, bring to the beggars. At the same time, it was customary for these persons to rush unceremoniously into houses, playing antic tricks, and bullying the inmates, for the money and choice victuals, crying: Tire-lire (referring to a small money-box they carried), maint du blanc, et point
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