Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year folklore

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

Feast of Fools
In Medieval Britain, today was the Feast of Fools, also celebrated in Paris from about 1198 - 1438, a day of licensed jesting – a kind of religious April Fools’ Day. It was a crazy day on which low clerical officials could swap places with the higher ones, a mock pope was elected and churchmen parodied religious rituals - for just one day.

It harkens back to the feast of Saturnalia in ancient Rome, for several days from December 17, when a Lord of Misrule was appointed to rule temporarily for Saturn.

It was also known in Latin by various names, including festum fatuorum, festum stultorum and festum hypodiaconorum and was like various other celebrations, such as the Feast of Asses, and the Feast of the Boy Bishop.

Although the festivities often became anti-ecclesiastical, anti-clerical and even blasphemous, for centuries, the Church allowed the people to revel on this day. In 1440, theologians in Paris argued, in defence of the Feast of Fools, that even a wine vat would burst if the bung-hole were not opened occasionally to let out the air. However, there were often objections raised: In Paris in 1199, Bishop Eudes de Sully imposed regulations to ensure that the abuses committed in the celebration of the January 1 Feast of Fools at Notre-Dame didn’t happen again, and perhaps they didn’t for a time. Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175 - October 9, 1253), Bishop of Lincoln, England, was another who condemned the feast mercilessly. The celebration of the Feast of Fools was eventually outlawed in 1555.

The Lord of Misrule, known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason, was an officer appointed at Christmas to preside over the feast. The British Lord of Misrule, unlike his Saturnalian counterpart, was not sacrificed at the end of the festival. However, there are records of a sacrificial king (a temporary king, as Frazer put it in The Golden Bough, Ch 58.3), being later put to death for the benefit of all. References to this ancient sacrifice may be seen in the 1973 pagan classic film, The Wicker Man.

Of the Roman custom, Frazer wrote:

We are justified in assuming that in an earlier and more barbarous age it was the universal practice in ancient Italy, wherever the worship of Saturn prevailed, to choose a man who played the part and enjoyed all the traditionary privileges of Saturn for a season, and then died, whether by his own or another's hand, whether by the knife or the fire or on the gallows-tree, in the character of the good god who gave his life for the world.
Sir James George Frazer (1854 - 1941), British folklorist; The Golden Bough, 1922

Boy Bishops in the Book of Days: December 6, December 28, January 6, Part II

Sacrificial kingship in the Book of Days

Lucky first-footer!
When Scots and northern English people welcome a first-footer (the first person into their home after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day), they hope it is a fair-haired man for luck. He must enter by the front door and leave by the back, symbolising the old and new years.

Click image at right for free New Year e-cards

The people of Yorkshire and northern England have among their many old customs the tradition of guising on New Year’s Eve. Guising is a centuries-old practice of going from door to door singing songs - trick or treating at Halloween derives from guising.

Welsh New Year
The Welsh open the back door before midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the Old Year out, then they lock it. At the last stroke of midnight on the clock they open the front door to welcome the New Year.

Polish New Year
Polish tradition is for vagabond players to put on street pantomimes on New Year’s Day. Gypsies, too, are on the streets, fortune telling.

Crappy noodles
A century ago the Sicilians on New Year’s Day ate lascagne cacate, or “crappy noodles”, a kind of lasagne. To eat any other sort of pasta today was considered bad luck. Their saying went “Whoever eats macaroni today will have a bad year”.

Grapes at midnight
People of Madrid, Spain, have an interesting old New Year’s custom: at the stroke of midnight each person eats twelve grapes. The cinemas will even stop running a movie at midnight to allow the patrons to eat their grapes.

The nightwatch bell
As in many parts of the world, in Japan the New Year is brought in with noise. Here, temple bells sound, ringing out the old year. Then the joyano-kane, or nightwatch bell, rings in the new with precisely 108 chimes. This, according to Buddhist tradition, helps free mankind from the 108 “earthly desires”.

Bells, bells, bells
A good idea has swift feet - the chiming of bells rings in the New Year in Japan and England as well as in Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Romania.

Kwam Suk Pee Mai!
As in many parts of the world, in Thailand the New Year is brought in with the tolling of bells – temple bells. People say "Kwam Suk Pee Mai!", meaning Happy New Year! Today Thai children will exchange presents with family and friends, and the general populace will present Buddhist monks a thanks offering of rice and other food.

Happy Ta’u Fo’ou!
That’s New Year in Tonga! Today Tongan boys and girls will go in groups from door to door serenading the populace. Some will make a joyful noise on harmonicas, guitars, drums and ukuleles, making up hymns and songs for the occasion. Like trick or treaters, they will receive goodies for their efforts.

Well dressing
Ancient Britain gives us many well and sacred spring customs. The first water drawn from a well on January 1 is supposed to bring fortune and happiness, and is called the Cream of the Well. It is customary to leave petals floating on the water. The wells at Wark, in Northumberland, UK, are supposed to have magical powers on New Year’s Day. In Wales, drawing fresh spring water as a New Year’s Day custom might have survived at the town of Tenby as late as the 1950s.

The hungry dead of Trinidad
Just as at Christmas and Easter, the people of Trinidad are known sometimes to “feed” the dead at New Year. Food, drink and even tobacco are left on a table for the deceased. We have no information about whether it is ever taken.

Grandfather Frost
The Russians don’t have Santa Claus, even though Saint Nicholas is patron of Moscow. They have Grandfather Frost (D’yed Moroz) at New Year, with his comely and daintily named assistant, Snegourka the Snow Maiden. They bring presents to children on this day. The people of the former Yugoslavia have their Deda Mraz. Like Santa, he brings presents to the children. He arrives a week before Christmas and asks what gifts they would like, delivering them on January 1.

New Year trees
The Russian have New Year trees instead of Christmas trees, with more than 50,000 decorated trees erected in Moscow public places and 700,000 in private homes of Muscovites.

New Year’s party
In the former Yugoslavia on New Year’s Day the people light the candles on their New Year’s tree and open their gifts. The day is traditionally one big party with music, fine food and dancing.

Got new clothes on?
Many Londoners believe that on New Year's Day it is unlucky not to wear new clothes. Haitians also go out in new clothes, or at least in their very best, as an omen of how their year will go.

Categories: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker