01 January 2012

1 January - New Year's Day

Weather: the weather today foretells the weather of January and of August.

The first three days of January rule the coming three months.

If the sun shines on the 8th day of Christmas, then quicksilver will be easy to get [I suppose that was important]

If the wind blows from the south on the first day of January, it will blow from the south every day of that month. 

If New Year's Day in the morning opens with dusky red clouds, it denotes strife and debates among great ones, and many robberies to happen that year. 

If January kalends be summerly gay, It will be winterly weather till the kalends of May. [Which seems a pretty safe bet however 'summerly gay' the day.

If the Kalends, or first of January, fall on the Lord’s-day, then will the winter be good, pleasant and warm.

If the Kalends fall on Sunday, there will be a good winter, windy spring, and dry summer; and a very good year this year will be; sheep will increase, there will be much honey, and plenty and peace will be upon the earth.

If New Year’s day falls on a Sunday, then a pleasant winter doth ensue; a natural summer; fruit sufficient; harvest indifferent, yet some wine and rain; many marriages; plenty of wine and honey; death of young men and cattle; robberies in most places, news of prelates, of kings; and cruel wars in the end.

But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God:
That I may declare all thy praises, in the gates of the daughter of Sion. (Psalm 73:28)

This is the Octave of Christmas, the eighth day.  In the traditional calendar, this is the Feast of the Circumcision; in the new calendar it is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; in the almanacs it is Holy Name; and for certain Orthodox Christians it is the feast of Saint Basil the Great.

In the civil calendar, this is New Year's Day - the beginning.  Look back for experience, look forward for adventure.

The Church Fathers said that today should be a solemn day of fasting and prayer, to make up for the excessive celebrations of the pagans of their day (and our own).  Prayer should certainly be a part of this day, as it should every day (and I am not talking about the prayers to the porcelain god over the excesses of last night), and fasting is probably salutary for those who have been taking in more calories than is good for them since Thanksgiving.  Fine.  Do as thou wilt.

And for those who say Christians should not celebrate a civil holiday - again, do as thou wilt.

Some of us kept a "Little Lent" all through Advent, and looked forward to the joy and celebration of Christmastide - and some of us tend to celebrate beginnings in joy and hopeful trust.  Be po-faced if you want, but by gum! I'm going to celebrate!

Speaking of po-faced, ol’ Naogeorgus couldn’t let the day go by without his sour comments:

The next to this is New Year’s Day, whereon to every friend
They costly presents in do bring, and New Year’s Gifts do send.
These gifts the husband gives his wife, and father eke the child,
And master on his men bestows the like with favor mild;
And good beginning of the year they wish and wish again,
According to the ancient guise of heathen people vain.
These eight days no man doth require his debts of any man,
Their tables do they furnish out with all the meat they can:
With marchpanes, tarts, and custards great, they drink with staring eyes,
They route and revel, feed and feast, as merry all as pies:
As if they should at th’entrance of this New Year hap to die,
Yet would they have their bellies full, and ancient friends ally.

What you do on the first day of the year indicates the character of your actions throughout the year.
Start by offering thanks to God for his goodness to you.  Keep a bit of money in your pocket (but don't spend any) to ensure money in your pocket all year long.  Wear new clothes.  Eat, drink, and be merry to ensure abundance.  Be generous in your hospitality.  Visit with friends and wish them happiness in the new year, read the books you received for Christmas, get in touch with absent family members, enjoy one of your hobbies or start a new one, survey the garden and plan what shall go in this year...  It was a tradition in Rome for tradesmen to work a little today, as a good omen of constant business all the year.

A tradition in this country was the paying of “New Year’s calls” on all one’s acquaintance, offering them the compliments of the season, and partaking of little cakes and coffee or punch.  Later, the menu grew to include sandwiches and other buffet items, with toddies, eggnog, and chocolate to imbibe.  Nowadays, people have ‘open houses” for their friends, in which there is not set time to arrive or leave – the only requirement being that you greet your hosts and wish them a happy New Year.  Bringing a small gift doesn’t hurt. 

In some countries, this is the day of celebration and giving presents, rather than Christmas Day (as Naogeorgus laments above).  Most notable were the gifts to the English sovereign (think of all the jewels and apparel that Elizabeth I received as New Year’s gifts). Family members presented gifts to each other, employers to employees, tenants to landlords, masters to servants, and everyone to the postman, dustbin-man, and other members of the serving public.

To take the ‘sortes’ of the Bible today: This must be done fasting, so do it before breakfast.  Say a prayer first, asking for guidance.  Lay the Bible, closed, on a table.  Close your eyes, open the Book at random and place your finger on one of the two open pages.  Open your eyes and read the chapter so chosen aloud (even if you placed your finger on a single verse, read the entire chapter.)  It was believed that the good or ill-fortune of the consulting parties would be foreshsown for the coming year.  Today, we should meditate upon it, understand what it means, and take it as a guide for our future conduct.

The first carol singer to come to your door on New Year’s morning should be admitted through the front door, escorted through the house, and let out of the back door, in order to ensure good luck in the coming year. [Yes, we are still allowed to have carols.  It is still Christmas, after all.]

First-footing applies today, as mentioned yesterday.  Here are some of the superstitions that relate to this custom:
If a man enters your house before a woman on New Year's Day, you will have a good year.
If a woman enters the house before a man does on New Year's Day, there will be bad luck.
As the first caller on New Year's Day, a dark man brings the best luck.
As the first caller on New Year's Day, a fair-haired man brings the next best luck.
As the first caller on New Year's Day, a dark-haired woman brings the third best luck.
As the first caller on New Year's Day, a red-haired person brings bad luck.
If a woman comes on the first day of the year, someone will come every day in the year.
If a woman visits you on New Year's Day, you cannot raise chickens successfully that year.

To break something on the first day of the year causes bad luck for the remainder of the year.

Do not allow anyone to take light out of your house today, nor throw out any ashes, dirty water, or any article, however worthless.  To do so is to invite bad luck.

If you wash anything on New Year's Day, you will wash a member of the family away.
Leave the dishes until tomorrow.  While you might want to wash your brother-in-law away, there's no telling which member of the family will go.

If you dip your head into the ocean on January first, you will not be ill during the year.
There are people who go the whole hog and jump into the icy waters (no mere head dip for them!)  This year in the Smallest State, we have four "Plunges" scheduled for today - in Jamestown, Newport, Narragansett, and Warwick ("Swimmers risk hypothermia and cardiac arrest for charity". No kidding).  If you've already securely packed away your bathing suit (so that it will not be found until summer), then bundle up, make a donation to the Plungers' charity, and go support those brave souls!

For good luck, dinner tonight should be of an animal that moves forward.  Fish, ducks, and geese swim forward, and pigs root forward, so they are lucky; chickens and turkeys scratch backward, cattle and sheep paw backward, so they are unlucky.  Shellfish is a toss-up.  Of course, from the chosen entree's point of view, it is probably the other way round.

My mother said that one must eat cabbage for an increase in money; friend Amy says that one must eat black-eyed peas for good luck, and a further inducement to a prosperous year is to cook white beans on the first day of the year.  My traditional New Year's Day Dinner combines them with the forward-moving animal above: glazed ham, coleslaw and/or sauerkraut, and Hoppin' John.

I wish for you all
Joy, Blessing, Health, Wealth, Love, and Laughter