Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year’s Day – Poems and Superstitions

Everyone knows Robbie Burns, “Auld Lang Syne”, a poem traditionally sung at the New Year, and often sung wrongly – the verse is “for auld lang syne” not “for sake of auld lang syne”! But there are other Scottish poets who wrote lyrics about the New Year.

The Scotsman gives several of these. There is William Thom’s (1799-1848) hearty, sing-song meter to the New Year, which I rather like. This was published sometime in the 19th century.

Come, Scotland’s dearest holiday,
Auld-fashioned, hearty Hogmanay!
How foul or fair the weather be
A kindly welcome waiteth thee;
Whether ye splash through mire and mud
Whaur bickerin’ burnies raise a scud,
Or powdery snaw – nae fricht – nae skaith,
We’ll trachel through a sax-fut wreath,
Rinnin’ full weel – full welcome aye,
Wha come to haud their Hogmanay,
Syne blythelie rings through hut an’ ha’,
‘A health to them that’s far awa’.’

And there are several superstitions for the day, which I cannot help suspect were created to give the poor housewife a day off!

One that I respect – I’m superstitious at heart, like many people- is that laundry shouldn’t be done on January 1. The folklore has it that washing your clothing on these days can actually lead to ‘washing a loved one away', in other words, a death in the family in the ensuing year.

Another one is not to sweep or dust on New Year’s Day. The notion here is that you could 'sweep your good luck away' - so let the dust accumulate, along with your luck!

And from Hungary, some other interesting facts: New Year’s Eve is called Szilveszter in Hungarian, as December 31st is Sylvester’s name day and Hungarians celebrate name days.

St. Sylvester (d. 335) was pope in the year 325, when Emperor Constantine declared that the pagan religion of Rome was abolished and that Christianity would henceforth be the official religion of the Empire. Although it is unclear exactly what role, if any, St. Sylvester played in this important event, he is always given at least some of the credit for stamping out paganism.

Pigs symbolize progress as they root themselves in the ground before pushing forward. Traditionally in Hungary eating pork on New Year’s Day brings you luck.

In addition to the lucky dishes listed above, Hungarians avoid eating chicken and fish on New Year’s Day, as chickens can ‘scratch’ away your luck and fish can swim away with your luck.

There are many other customs and superstitions, New Year resolutions, of course, and others about money, about taking stuff out of the house, about tall dark men being the first to visit a house, kissing at midnight, paying of debts etc etc, and if every one of them were written down, I suppose there would not be enough blogs in the world to hold all that could be written.


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