Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
should wear a new dress on New Year's Day, and if its pockets contain money of every description they will be certain not to be empty throughout the year." 2
The laying of stress on what happens on New Year's Day is by no means peculiarly European. Hindus, for instance, as Mr. Edgar Thurston tells us, " are very particular about catching sight of some auspicious object on the morning of New Year's Day, as the effects of omens seen on that occasion are believed to last throughout the year." It is thought that a man's whole prosperity depends upon the things that he then happens to fix his eyes upon.3
Charms, omens, and good wishes are naturally the most promi­nent customs of January I and its Eve. The New Year in England can hardly be called a popular festival; there is no public holiday and the occasion is more associated with penitential Watch Night services and good resolutions than with rejoicing. But let the reader, if he be in London, pay a visit to Soho at this time, and he will get some idea of what the New Year means to the foreigner. The little restaurants are decorated with gay festoons of all colours and thronged with merrymakers, the shop-windows are crowded with all manner of recherche delicacies ; it is the gala season of the year.
In France January i is a far more festal day than Christmas ; it is then that presents are given, family gatherings held, and calls paid. In the morning children find their stockings filled with gifts, and then rush off to offer good wishes to their parents. In the afternoon the younger people call upon their older relations, and in the evening all meet for dinner at the home of the head of the family.4
In Germany the New Year is a time of great importance. Cards are far more numerous than at Christmas, and "New Year boxes" are given to the tradespeople, while on the Eve (Sylvesterabend) there are dances or parties, the custom of fore­casting the future by lead-pouring is practised, and at the stroke of midnight there is a general cry of " Prosit Neu Jahr ! ", a drinking of healths, and a shaking of hands.5
New Year wishes and " compliments of the season" are
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