Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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One need hardly allude to the gathering of London Scots around St. Paul's to hear the midnight chime and welcome the New Year with the strains of " Auld Lang Syne," except to say that times have changed and Scotsmen are now lost in the swelling multitude of roysterers of all nationalities.
Drinking is and was a great feature of the Scottish New Year's Eve. " On the approach of twelve o'clock, a hot pint was" prepared—that is, a kettle or flagon full of warm, spiced, and sweetened ale, with an infusion of spirits. When the clock had struck the knell of the departed year, each member of the family drank of this mixture ' A good health and a happy New Year and many of them ' to all the rest, with a general hand-shaking." The elders of the family would then sally out to visit their neighbours, and exchange greetings.27
At Biggar in Lanarkshire it was customary to " burn out the old year" with bonfires, while at Burghead in Morayshire a tar-barrel called the " Clavie " was set on fire and carried about the village and the fishing boats. Its embers were scrambled for by the people and carefully kept as charms against witchcraft.38 These fire-customs may be compared with those on Hallowe'en, which, as we have seen, is probably an old New Year's Eve.
Stewart in his " Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland " tells how on the last night of the year the Strathdown Highlanders used to bring home great loads of juniper, which on New Year's Day was kindled in the different rooms, all apertures being closed so that the smoke might produce a thorough fumigation. Not only human beings had to stand this, but horses and other animals were treated in the same way to preserve them from harm throughout the year. Moreover, first thing on New Year's morning, everybody, while still in bed, was asperged with a large brush.29 There is a great resemblance here to the Catholic use of incense and holy water in southern Germany and Austria on the Rauchnachte (see also Chapter VIII.). In Tyrol these nights are Christmas, New Year's, and Epiphany Eves. When night falls the Tyrolese peasant goes with all his household through each room and outhouse, his wife bearing the holy water vessel and the censer. Every corner of the buildings, every animal,
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