Happy New Year! Below are some tidbits from Harper's Magazine ©1866
New-Year's Eve, the 31st.—We would premise that the phrase "eve"or "even," though an abbreviation of the word evening, in its present acceptation applies to the whole day which precedes a festival. Formerly, Christians were in the habit of keeping "vigils" on the evenings prior to certain festivals, and by extraordinary devotions preparing for the better celebration of the feast on the following day. The words "eve" and "vigil" thus grew to be almost synonymous. New-Year's Eve, however, is not a vigil; for none of the festivals which occur between Christmas and Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification, February 2d, is preceded by a vigil; the period being regarded as one of joy and not proper for fasting. The same is true of the days which intervene between Easter and Whitsuntide. The eves of Christmas and of Easter were always esteemed the most important vigils of the year, and were observed with the greatest strictness by the devotional. The Christmas and Easter seasons were likewise considered periods for especial rejoicing, and were honored accordingly.
Yes, the year is growing old,
And his eye is pale and bleared!
Death with froflty band and cold
Plucks the old man by the beard,
Yes, the year is hastening to a close; soon it will be united to those which preceded it, and save by the influence it must exercise upon time to come, it will be known no more. No more 1 How touching is the expression! It is peculiar to our own language. To what sad thoughts it gives rise; what melancholy feelings it awakens! No more! Yes, the year has grown old. Time pursues its stealthy, steady, unfaltering progress; soon, too, we will grow old like the year. Jamicson supposes the name, says Mrs. Howitt, "to be derived from the carols sung on this day." The last stanza of one of those chanted on Christmas would seem to be appropriate to Singing E'en. It forms part of the collection presented to Mrs. Howitt by Mrs. Fletcher:
God bless the master of this house
And mistress also;
And all the little children
That round the table go
With their pockets full of money.
And their cellars full of beer;
And God send you a Happy New Year.
God bless the master of this house,
Mistress and children dear;
Joyful may their Christmas be,
And happy their New Year.
"To this day also belongs," adds Mrs. Howitt, "the Hogmanay, orHogmena, which has been supposed, and not without some appearance of reason, to be a corruption of a Druid rite, while the word itself would seem to have come to us from Normandy. Gue, or Guy, is the Celtic name for 'oak;' and Keysler tells us that on the 31st of December the boys and youths go about the towns and villages begging for gifts, while,byway ofwishingahappyNewYear, they say 'Au Guy L'An Nevf—To the Mistletoe, the New-Year's come;' by which word they designate not only the season but the gift received. "In Scotland the custom prevailed until very lately, if indeed it has ever ceased entirely to exist, of distributing sweet cakes and a particular kind of sugared bread for several days before and after the new year; and on the last night of the old year, especially called Hogmenai, the social meetings made a point of remaining together till the clock struck twelve, when they all rose up, kissed each other, and wished a Happy New Year around. Children and others went about for several nights from house to house in guisarts, or guisanh, that is to say, in masquerade disguises, singing at the same time:
'Rise up, good wife, and be no swier
To deale your bread as long's you're here;
The time will come when you'll be dead,
And neither want nor meal nor bread.'"
What can be said of a year? Of what one shall we speak? Each year differs from every other; and to every person each year presents quito a different aspect. The thoughts naturally dwell most upon that which is passing away. Let those to whom it has been illumined by the favoring smiles of a kind Heaven rejoice and be thankful; and let those to whom it has been sad and weary take heart of grace, and be strong in hope for the future.
Edwin Lee's "Christmas and New Year" concludes thus •
The clock strikes twelve, and the Old Year dies. Roys raixe his body on a bier, and maidtnis sing the foUo'icinn Dirge:
Bring the last December rose, Frosted o'er with wintry snows; Let the fading petals fall O'er the Year's funereal pall.
From the wood some oak leaves bring
That were green in early spring;
Scatter them about the bier
Of the now departing Year.
Let the bells upon their wheels,
While our fond ideas veer,
Ring the solemn midnight peals,
Ling'ring for the dying Yfar.
Hark! the peal has ceased to roll;
Silence rei(;n^; but now a toll
Breaks upon the startled ear—
Gone forever is tho Year!