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.
the present proprietor has lately erected a small round column, with a cavity in the centre for admitting the fire end of the pole, and into this it is now placed. After being allowed to burn on the "durie" for a few minutes, the " Clavie " is most unceremoniously hurled from its place, and the smoking embers scattered among the assembled crowd, by whom, in less enlightened times, they were eagerly caught at and fragments of them carried home and carefully pre­served as charms against witchcraft. At one time supersti­tion invested the whole proceedings with all the solemnity of a religious rite, the whole population joining in it as an act necessary to the welfare and prosperity of the little com­munity during the year about to commence.
The " Clavie " has now, however, degenerated into a mere frolic, kept up by the youngsters more for their own amuse­ment than for any benefit which the due performance of the ceremony is believed to secure.—JV. & Q. 2nd S. vol. ix. p. 38 ; see also N. & Q. 2nd S. vol. ix. pp. 106, 169, 269; and Book of Days, vol. ii. pp. 789-791.
It was formerly the custom in Orkney for large bands of the common class of people to assemble on New Years Eve, and pay a round of visits, singing a song which com­menced as follows:
11 This night it is guid New'r E'en's night, We're a' here Queen Mary's men; And we're come here to crave our right, And that's before our Lady."
Brand's Pop. Antiq, 1849, vol. i. p. 9;^ see Chambers' Pop. Bhymes of Scotland, 1870, pp. 167, 168, 324.
On the last night of the year a cake is thrown against the outside door of each house by the head of the family, which ceremony is said to keep out hunger during the ensuing one. —Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland, 1824, p. 233.
A correspondent of N. & Q. (5th S. vol. iii. p. 7) says, on
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