It is 11:57 PM when I began typing out this blog post and it seemed appropriate to share some tidbits about this day from the 19th Century. I did however pause for a moment and join the neighbors outside as they wished Happy New Year with fireworks and children shouting.
In France and England it still subsists, although eclipsed in the latter country by the still more popular practice of Christmas gifts. In many countries, the night of New Year's Eve. 14 St Sylvester's Eve," was celebrated with great festivity, winch was prolonged till after 12 o'clock, when the New Year was ushered in with congratulations, complimentary visits, and mutual wishes for a happy New Year. This is an ancient Scottish custom, which also prevails in many parts bf Germany, where the form of wish— "Prosstffor the Lat, prosi'O-Neu-jahr"—"May the New Year be happy "—sufficiently attests the antiquity of the custom. In many places the practice or tolling bells at midnight, and thus "ringing in the New Year " is still observed. Many religious communions are wont to celebrate it with a special service. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Te Deum is still sung at the close of the old year; and New-Year's Day is a holiday of strict obligation.
Source: Chamber's New Handy Volume American Encyclopaedia.©1885
NEW YEAR'S DAY,
The celebration of New Year's Day is preserved in this country as a rural festival. Gifts are made to children, servants, and dependants, called New Year'sGifts. Mr. Bourne quotes what Stillingfleet says, "That among the Saxons of the northern nations, the feast of the new year was observed with more than ordinary jollity;" and, from Hospinian, says, " It was an ancient custom of the heathens, and afterwards practised by the Christians." Servants were exempt from their labour, and partook of the feast and rural sports with their masters: they were presented with tokeus of approbation and favour. On certain festivals the Romans gave pieces of money to travellers and strangers who were present at the sacrifice. On our day of festivity, mirth is excited by a rustic masquerading and playing tricks in disguise: the hide of the ox slain for the winter cheer, is often put on, and the person, thus attired, attempts to shew the character of the devil, by every horrible device in his power. All the winter sports seem to express a strong opinion of the ancients, that genii of very contrary natures prevailed on earth, that the one was constantly concomitant to light as the other was to darkness; and this image of the devil, which is frequently permitted to expel the inhabitants and take possession of the house, is typical of the power of the evil genius, in the season when the sun is longest absent from our hemisphere. This corresponds with the lamentation used by those who held the Elusinian mysteries, and mourned for Adonis. It is very difficult to make any probable determination to what people we owe these customs. In the Roman Saturnalia and Sigillaria, this kind of frolicking was practised. Among the observations made by Mr. Brand on Bourne's XIV Chap, he remarks, that there was an ancient custom for young women to go about with a wassail bowl, that is, "a bowl of spiced ale" on new year's eve, with some sort of verses that were sung by them in going from door to door, Wassail is derived from the Anglo Sax. Waep. Hael. that is, " Be in health,"
Source: The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure ©1813
Below is a short story of New Year's Day.
New Year's Day: A Winter Tale ©1846