« AnteriorContinua »
Be this day frugal, and not spare his friend Some gift, to show his love finds not an end With the deceased year.
POOLES'S ENG. PARNASSUS.
In the volume of "ELIA," an excellent paper begins with "Every man hath two birthdays: two days, at least, in every year, which set him upon revolving the lapse of time, as it affects his mortal duration. The one is that which in an especial manner he termeth his. In the gradual desuetude of old observances, this custom
of solemnizing our proper birthday hath nearly passed away, or is left to children, who reflect nothing at all about the matter, nor understand any thing beyond the cake and orange. But the birth of a new year is of an interest too wide to be pretermitted by king or cobbler. No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.
"Of all sound of all bells-(bells, the music nighest bordering upon heaven)most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the old year. I never hear it without a gathering-up of my mind to a concentration of all the images that have been diffused over the past twelvemonth; all I have done or suffered, performed, or neglected-in that regretted time. I begin to know its worth as when a person dies. It takes a personal colour; nor was it a poetical flight in a contemporary, when he exclaimed,
'I saw the skirts of the departing year.' "The elders with whom I was brought up, were of a character not likely to let slip the sacred observance of any old institution; and the ringing out of the old year was kept by them with circumstances of peculiar ceremony. In those days the sound of those midnight chimes, though it seemed to raise hilarity in all around me, never failed to bring a train of pensive imagery into my fancy. Yet I then scarce conceived what it meant, or thought of it as a reckoning that concerned me. Not childhood alone, but the young man till thirty, never feels practically that he is mortal."
Ringing out the old and ringing in the new year, with "a merry new year! a happy new year to you!" on new year's day, were greetings that moved sceptred pride, and humble labour, to smiles and
kind feelings in former times; and why should they be unfashionable in our own?
Dr. Drake observes, in "Shakspeare and his Times," that the ushering in of the new year, or new year's tide, with rejoicings, presents, and good wishes, was a custom observed, during the 16th century, with great regularity and parade, and was as cordially celebrated in the court of the prince as in the cottage of the peasant.
The Rev.T. D. Fosbroke, in his valuable Encyclopedia of Antiquities," adduces various authorities to show that congratuthe Romans on this day. The origin, he lations, presents, and visits were made by says, is ascribed to Romulus and Tatius, and that the usual presents were figs and dates, covered with leaf-gold, and sent by clients to patrons, accompanied with a piece of money, which was expended to purchase the statues of deities. He mentions an amphora (a jar) which still exists, with an inscription denoting that it was a new year's present from the potters to Count Caylus a piece of Roman pottery, their patroness. He also instances from with an inscription wishing a happy new year to you;" another, where a person medallions, with the laurel leaf, fig, and wishes it to himself and his son; and three date; one, of Commodus; another, of Victory; and a third, Janus, standing in a temple,with an inscription, wishing a happy new year to the emperor. New year's gifts were continued under the Roman emperors until they were prohibited by Claudius. Yet in the early ages of the church the Christian emperors received them ; nor did they wholly cease, although condemned by ecclesiastical councils on account of the pagan ceremonies at their presentation.
The Druids were accustomed on certain days to cut the sacred misletoe with a golden knife, in a forest dedicated to the gods, and to distribute its branches with much ceremony as new year's gifts among the people.
The late Rev. John Brand, in his "Popular Antiquities" edited by Mr. Ellis observes from Bishop Stillingfleet, tha. among the Saxons of the North, the festival of the new year was observed with more than ordinary jollity and feasting, and by sending new year's gifts to one another. Mr. Fosbroke notices the continuation of the Roman practice during the middle ages; and that our kings, and the nobility especially, interchanged presents. Mr. Ellis quotes Matthew Paris, who appears to show that Henry III ex
torted new year's gifts; and he cites from a MS. of the public revenue, anno 5, Edward VI. an entry of "rewards given on new year's day to the king's officers and servants in ordinary 155l. 58., and to their servants that present the king's majestie with new year's gifts." An orange stuck with cloves seems, by reference to Mr. Fosbroke and our early authors, to have been a popular new year's gift. Mr. Ellis suggests, that the use of this present may be ascertained from a remark by old Lupton, that the flavour of wine is improved, and the wine itself preserved from mouldiness, by an orange or lemon stuck with cloves being hung within the vessel so as not to touch the liquor.
Thomas Naogeorgus, in "The Popish Kingdome," a Latin poem written in 1553, and Englished by Barnabe Googe, after remarking on days of the old year, urges this recollection:
The next to this is Newe yeares day
and Newe yeares giftes do sende,
Honest old Latimer, instead of presenting Henry VIII. with a purse of gold, as was customary, for a new year's gift, put into the king's hand a New Testament, with a leaf conspicuously doubled down at Hebrews xiii. 4, which, on reference, will be found to have been worthy of all acceptation, though not perhaps well accepted. Dr. Drake is of opinion that the wardrobe and jewellery of queen Elizabeth were principally supported by these annual contributions on new year's day. He cites lists of the new year's gifts presented to her, from the original rolls published in her Progresses by Mr. Nichols; and from these it appears that the greatest part, if not all the peers and peeresses of the realm, all the bishops, the chief officers of state, and several of the queen's household servants, even down to her apothecaries, master cook, serjeant of the pastry, &c. gave new year's gifts to her majesty; consisting, in general, either of a sum of money, or jewels, trinkets, wearing apparel, &c. The largest sum given by any of the temporal lords was 201.; but the archbishop of Canterbury gave 401., the archbishop of York 301., and the other piritual lords 201. and 107.; many of the temporal lords and great officers, and
most of the peeresses, gave rich gowns,
Lawn, as white as driven snow;
Buy, lads, or else your lasses cry,
Dr. Drake says, that though Elizabeth made returns to the new year's gifts, in plate and other articles, yet she took sufficient care that the balance should be in her own favour.
No. 4982, in the Catalogue for 1824, of Mr. Rodd, of Great Newport-street, is a roll of vellum, ten feet long, containing the
new year's gifts from king James I. to the persons whose names are therein mentioned on the 1st of January 1605, with the new year's gifts that his majesty received the same day; the roll is signed by James himself and certain officers of his household.
In a "Banquet of Jests, 1634,” 12mo. there is a pleasant story of Archee, the king's jester, who, having fooled many, was fooled himself. Coming to a nobleman, upon new year's day, to bid him good-morrow, Archee received twenty pieces of gold; but, covetously desiring more, he shook them in his hand, and said they were too light. The donor answered: "I prithee, Archee, let me see them again, for there is one amongst them I would be loth to part with:" Archee, expecting the sum to be increased, returned the pieces to his lordship; who put them in his pocket with this remark, "I once gave money into a fool's hand, who had not the wit to keep it."
Pins were acceptable new year's gifts to the ladies, instead of the wooden skewers which they used till the end of the fifteenth century. Sometimes they received a composition in money: and hence allowances for their separate use is still denominated" pin-money."
Gloves were customary new year's gifts. They were more expensive than in our times, and occasionally a money present was tendered instead: this was called "glove-money." Sir Thomas More, as lord chancellor, decreed in favour of a Mrs. Croaker against the lord Arundel. On the following new year's day, in token of her gratitude, she presented sir Thomas with a pair of gloves, containing forty angels. "It would be against good manners," said the chancellor, to forsake a gentlewoman's new year's gift, and I accept the gloves; their lining you will be pleased otherwise to bestow."
Mr. Brand relates from a curious MS. in the British Museum, of the date of 1560, that the boys of Eton school used on this day to play for little new year's gifts before and after supper; and also to make verses, which they presented to the provost and masters, and to each other: new year's gifts of verses, however, were not peculiar to schoolboys. A poet, the beauties of whose poetry are justly remarked to be "of a kind which time has a tendency rather to hallow than to inJure," Robert Herrick, presents us, in his Hesperides, with a New Year's Gift
sent to Sir Simon Steward." He commences it merrily, and goes on to call it a jolly
Verse, crown'd with ivy and with holly;
Wherewith make those
Mr. Ellis, in a note on Brand, introduces a poetical new year's gift in Latin, from the stern Buchanan to the unhappy Mary of Scotland.
"New year's gifts," says Dr. Drake, "were given and received, with the mutual expression of good wishes, and particularly that of a happy new year. The compliment was sometimes paid at each other's doors in the form of a song; but more generally, especially in the north of England and in Scotland, the house was entered very early in the morning, by some young men and maidens selected for the purpose, who presented the spiced bowl, and hailed you with the gratulations of the season.' To this may be added, that it was formerly the custom in Scotland to send new year's gifts on new year's eve; and on new year's day to wish each other a happy new year, and ask for a new year's gift. There is a citation in Brand, from the "Statistical Account of Scotland," concerning new year's gifts to servant maids by their masters; and it mentions that "there is a large stone, about nine or ten feet high, and four broad, placed upright in a plain, in the (Orkney) isle of North Ronaldshay; but no tradition is preserved concerning it, whether erected in memory of any signa! event, or for the purpose of administering justice, or for religious worship. The
writer of this (the parish priest) has seen fifty of the inhabitants assembled there, on the first day of the year, dancing by moonlight, with no other music than their own singing."
In Mr. Stewart's" Popular Superstitions of the Highlands," there is some account of the Candlemas bul, on new year's eve, as introductory to the new year. The term Candlemas, applied to this season, is supposed to have originated in some old religious ceremonies performed by candlelight. The Bull is a passing cloud, which Highland imagination perverts into the form of that animal; as it rises or falls or takes peculiar directions, of great significancy to the seers, so does it prognosticate good or bad weather. The more northern nations anciently assigned portentous qualities to the winds of new year's eve. One of their old legends in Brand may be thus versified-the last line eking out the verse:
If New Year's eve night-wind blow south,
Mr. Stewart says, that as soon as night sets in it is the signal with the Strathdown highlander for the suspension of his usual employment, and he directs his attention to more agreeable callings. The men form into bands with tethers and axes, and, shaping their course to the juniper bushes, they return home laden with mighty loads, which are arranged round the fire to-day till morning. A certain discreet person is despatched to the dead and living ford to draw a pitcher of water in profound silence, without the vessel touching the ground, lest its virtue should be destroyed, and on his return all retire to rest. Early on new year's morning the Usque-Cashrichd, or water from the dead and living ford, is drank, as a Dotent charm, until next new year's day, against the spells of witchcraft, the malignity of evil eyes, and the activity of all infernal agency. The qualified highlander then takes a large brush, with which he profusely asperses the occupants of all beds; from whom it is not unusual for him to receive ungrateful remonstrances against ablution. This ended, and the doors and windows being thoroughly closed, and all crevices stopped, he kindles piles of the collected juniper, in the dif
ferent apartments, till the vapour from the burning branches condenses into opaque clouds, and coughing, sneezing, wheezing, gasping, and other demonstrations of suffocation ensue. The operator, aware that the more intense the "smuchdan," the more propitious the solemnity, disregards these indications, and continues, with streaming eyes and averted head, to increase the fumigation, until in his own defence he admits the air to recover the exhausted household and himself. He then treats the horses, cattle, and other bestial stock in the town with the same smothering, to keep them from harm throughout the year. When the gudewife gets up, and having ceased from coughing, has gained sufficient strength to reach the bottle dhu, she administers its comfort to the relief of the sufferers: laughter takes place of complaint, all the family get up, wash their faces, and receive the visits of their neighbours, who arrive full of gratulations peculiar to the day. Mu nase choil orst, "My Candlemas bond upon you' is the customary salutation, and means, in plain words, "You owe me a new year's gift." A point of great emulation is, who shall salute the other first; because the one who does so is entitled to a gift from the person saluted. Breakfast, consisting of al! procurable luxuries, is then served, the neighbours not engaged are invited to partake, and the day ends in festivity.
Riding stang, a custom that will be observed on hereafter, prevails in some parts of England on new year's day to the present hour. The " stang" is cowl-staff; the cowl is a water-vessel, borne by two persons on the cowl-staff, which is a stout pole whereon the vessel hangs. "Where's the cowl-staff?" cries Ford's wife, when she purposes to get Falstaff into a large buck-basket, with two handles; the cowl-staff, or 66 stang," is produced, and, being passed through the handles,the fat knight is borne off by two of Ford's men. A writer in the Gentleman s Magazine, 1791, says, that in Westmoreland and Cumberland, on the 1st of January, multitudes assemble early in the morning with baskets and "stangs," and whoever does not join them, whether inhabitant or stranger, is immediately mounted across the " stang," and carried, shoulder height, to the next public-house, where sixpence liberates the prisoner Women are seized in this way, and car
ried in baskets-the sex being privileged from riding "stang," in compliment, perhaps, to the use of side-saddles. In the same part of the country, no one is allowed to work on new year's day, how ever industrious. Mr. Ellis shows that it was a new year's day custom in ancient Rome for tradesmen to work a little only, for luck's sake, that they might have constant business all the year after.
A communication in an English journal of January 1824 relates, that in Paris on new year's day, which is called le jour d'étrennes, parents bestow portions on their children, brothers on their sisters, and husbands make presents to their wives. Carriages may be seen rolling through the streets with cargoes of bon-bons, souvenirs, and the variety of et cæteras with which little children and grown-up children are bribed into good humour; and here and there pastrycooks are to be met with, carrying upon boards enormous temples, pagodas, churches, and playhouses, made of fine flour and sugar, and the embellishments which render French pastry so inviting. But there is one street in Paris to which a new year's day is a whole year's fortune-this is the Rue des Lombards, where the wholesale confectioners reside; for in Paris every trade and profession has its peculiar quarter. For several days preceding the 1st of January, this street is completely blocked up by carts and waggons laden with cases of sweetmeats for the provinces. These are of every form and description which the most singular fancy could imagine; bunches of carrots, green peas, boots and shoes, lobsters and crabs, hats, books, musical instruments, gridirons, frying-pans, and saucepans; all made of sugar, and coloured to imitate reality, and all made with a hollow within to hold the bon-bons. The most prevailing device is what is called a cornet, that is, a little cone ornamented in different ways with a bag to draw over the large end, and close it up. In these things, the prices of which vary from one franc (tenpence) to fifty, the bon-bons are presented by those who choose to be at the expense of them, and by those who do not, they are only wrapped in a piece of paper; but bon-bons in some way or other must be presented. It would not, perhaps, be an exaggeration to state that the amount expended for presents on new year's day in Paris, for sweetmeats alone, exceeds 500,000 francs, or 20,000. sterling. Jewellery is also sold to a very
large amount, and the fancy artic.es exported in the first week in the year to England and other countries, is computed at one-fourth of the sale during the twelve months. In Paris it is by no means uncommon for a man of 8,000 or 10,000 francs a year to make presents on new year's day which cost him a fifteenth part of his income. No person able to give must on this day pay a visit empty-handed. Every body accepts, and every man gives according to the means which he possesses. Females alone are excepted from the charge of giving. A pretty woman, respectably connected, may reckon her new year's presents at something considerable. Gowns, jewellery, gloves, stockings, and artificial flowers, fill her drawing-room; for in Paris it is a custom to display all the gifts, in order to excite emulation, and to obtain as much as possible. At the palace the new year's day is a complete jour de fête. Every branch of the royal family is then expected to make handsome presents to the king. For the six months preceding January 1824, the female branches were busily occupied in preparing presents of their own manufacture, which would fill at least two common-sized waggons. The duchess de Berri painted an entire room of japanned pannels, to be set up in the palace; and the duchess of Orleans prepared an elegant screen. An English gentleman who was admitted suddenly into the presence of the duchess de Berri two months before, found her, and three of her maids of honour, lying on the carpet, painting the legs of a set of chairs, which were intended for the king. The day commences with the Parisians, at an early hour, by the interchange of their visits and bon-bons. The nearest relations are visited first, until the furthest in blood have had their calls; then friends and acquaintances. The conflict to anticipate each other's calls, occasions the most agreeable and whimsical scenes among these proficients in polite attentions. In these visits, and in gossiping at the confectioners' shops, which are the great lounge for the occasion, the morning of new year's day is passed; a dinner is giver by some member of the family to all the rest, and the evening concludes, like Christmas day, with cards, dancing, or any other amusement that may be preferred. One of the chief attractions to a foreigner in Paris is the exhibition, which opens there on new year's day, of the finest specimens of the Sevres china manu