31 December 2011

31 December - St. Sylvester; New Year's Eve; 7th day of Christmas

I wish you a merry Christmas,
A happy New Year,
A pocket full of money,
And a cellar full of beer,
And a good fat pig to serve you all the year.

Weather:  The weather today foretells the weather of July. 

Wind on St. Sylvester’s night, and early morning sunshine
Seldom bring good wine.

If the sun shines on the 7th day of Christmas, there will be a good crop on the trees.

A North wind blowing on New Year’s Eve foretells a fruitful season.

If the old year goes out like a lion, the new year will come in like a lamb.

If on New Year's Eve night the wind blow south,
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk, and fishes in the sea;
If north, much cold and storms there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
If northeast, flee it, man and brute!

At Rome, the birthday of pope Saint Silvester, who baptized the emperor Constantine the Great, and confirmed the Council of Nicaea.  After performing many other holy deeds, he rested in peace.

Emperor Constantine leads Pope Sylvester's horse
Dom Prosper Guéranger writes:
“The Church would therefore grace this glorious Christmas Octave with the name of one of her Children, who should represent, at Bethlehem, the whole class of her unmartyred Saints.  She chose a Confessor – St. Sylvester: a Confessor who governed the Church of Rome, and, therefore, the universal Church; a Pontiff, whose reign was long and peaceful; a Servant of Jesus Christ adorned with every virtue, who was sent to edify and guide the world immediately after those fearful combats, that had lasted for three hundred years, and in which millions of Christians had gained victory by martyrdom, under the leadership of Thirty Popes – predecessors of St. Sylvester – and they, too, all Martyrs."

"So that, Sylvester is the messenger of the Peace, which Christ came to give to the world, and of which the Angels sang on Christmas night… His appearance during this Octave reminds us, that the Divine Child who lies wrapt in swaddling-clothes, and is the object of Herod’s persecution, is, notwithstanding all these humiliations, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come."

"O blessed Pontiff, and admirable Pastor of the universal Church! Whom the Lord glorified in the sight of all nations, and exalted above the Emperor of Rome; O thou, that art now exulting in heavenly glory, pray for us to our Lord."

"O shining Light and Brightness, blessed and most holy Sylvester! In whose time, the clouds of persecution were scattered over the heads of the Faithful, and the calmness of peace appeared: help us by thy prayers, that we may for ever enjoy the blessing of peace."

just a few more candles needed...
Today is my dear brother's birthday, and I wish him many more.  Happy Birthday, Mark!
To end the old year merrily, and to begin the new year well, is the object of our celebration tonight.

Finish your projects, make sure your house is clean and in order, pay your debts, and make up any differences you have with others.  You want to start with a clean slate.

Make sure that today your cupboards have food and your pockets have money – empty cupboards and pockets foretell poverty in the New Year.

It is time to make resolutions for the new year.  If you have access to a fireplace or a bonfire, or even a small brazier outside, write down all of your bad habits - which of course you intend to give up - and throw the paper in the fire to rid yourself of their influence.  Then turn over a new leaf and start afresh tomorrow.

Spend the evening with friends, and do not part with them until you have wished each other a happy new year (after midnight).

Tonight is another fine night for fortune telling, by dropping a little melted lead into a bowl of cold water and deciphering the resultant shapes: a pig is good luck and plenty, a heart indicates love, a ring foretells a wedding, a plane or boat means travel, etc.

Say no ill of the year till it be past (unless you are one of those news-feeds that delights in reminding people of “Weather disasters of 2011”, “Political blunders of 2011”, “Worst dressed celebs of 2011”, etc.)

To ensure 12 happy months in the coming year: at the stroke of midnight, eat 12 grapes (very lucky if you eat one at each stroke).  Then frighten away the powers of darkness with noise - ring the church bells, set off fireworks, honk the car horns...

Open the front door at midnight to let the Old Year out and usher the New Year in.

As for First-Footing...  the term refers to the first person to enter your house on New Year's Day (which starts at midnight).  There is no consensus about who brings the most luck.  In some places, a fair-haired man is lucky; a dark man is bad luck.  In others, a dark man is lucky; a red-headed man is bad luck.  He must be a bachelor; his marital status doesn't matter.  Some even allow a woman to fill the position, although traditionally, that was the worst luck that could befall.

The First-Footer, or, barring him, the first person to enter the house after midnight should bring a gift, or at least something besides himself, into the house, for:

Take out and then take in, bad luck will begin.
Take in, then take out, good luck comes about.

Traditionally, the gift was a loaf of bread, a bottle of whiskey, or a shovelful of coals.  Of course, for bringing luck to your house, you must remember to reward him with liquor or small gratuities.

In the days when light and heat depended on fire, no person would allow a candle to be lit and carried out of his house to relight the fire of his neighbor, nor allow coals from his hearth to furnish the same, for it was believed that a family member would die within the year if they did so.

Some people have traditional dinners for this night, like the boiled cod with mustard sauce of the Danes, or the German carp or dried pea soup.  Our traditional dinner continued the theme of "Bad Habits Day", in which no one made even a pretense of eating healthy foods.  Each person chose his favorite - usually some type of fast-food - and we trooped out to pick up each one: pizza here, triple-decker burger and mega-fries there, Chinese take-out, fried chicken, fish-and-chips - whatever suited the individual palate.

And then we solemnly resolved that even if we couldn't quite give them up in the coming year, they would be rarely seen.

[Well, we always meant to keep that resolution anyway.]

In the name of the Lord
The Old Year goes out the door.
This is my wish for each of you:
Peace forever, and praise to God, our Lord.

Happiness, laughter, and blessing to you all.

c1247, Chapel of Saint Sylvester, Santi Quattro Coronati Church, Rome