British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

506                                new year's eve.                     [Dec. 31.
du has." These various cries, it must be owned, are as like as possible to " Hogmanay, trollolay, give us of your white bread, and none of your grey."—Chambers' Pop. Rhymes of Scotland, 1870, pp. 164-165; see Hales's Analysis of Chronology, 1830, vol. i. pp. 50, 51, also N. & Q. 5th S. vol. ii. pp. 329, 517.
In Scotland also, upon the last of the old year, the children go about from door to door, asking for bread and cheese, which they call " Nog-money," in these words:
'* Get up, gude wife, and binno sweir (i.e., be not lazy), And deal your cakes and cheese while you are here; For the time will come when yell be dead, And neither need your cheese nor bread."
Brand's Pop. Antiq. 1819, vol. i. p. 14.
At the town of Biggar (in the upper ward of Lanarkshire) it has been customary from time immemorial among the inhabitants to celebrate what is called " burning out the old year." For this purpose, during the day of the 31st of December, a large quantity of fuel is collected, consisting of branches of trees, brushwood, and coals, and placed in a heap at the " cross;" and about nine o'clock at night the lighting of the fire is commenced, surrounded by a crowd of lookers-on, who each think it a duty to cast into the flaming mass some additional portion of material, the whole being sufficient to maintain the fire till next or New Year's Day morning is far advanced. Fires are also kindled on the adjacent hills to add to the importance of the occasion.
It is considered unlucky to give out a light to any one on the morning of the new year, and therefore if the house-fire has been allowed to become extinguished, recourse must be had to the embers of the pile. This then accounts for the maintenance of the fire up to a certain time on New Year's Day.
Some consider these fires to be the relics of Pagan or of Druidical rites of the dark ages; perhaps of a period as remote as that of the Beltaine fires, the change of circum­stances having now altered these fires, both as to the particular
Previous Contents Next