Thursday, 29 December 2011

New Year - A new take on an old custom?

Did you know, in the UK, New Year's Day was only declared a public holiday in 1974?

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Rich with the symbolism of the old year passing and welcoming the new, it seems right to see the New Year in - as a time for fresh starts and resolution.
Be it full-blown celebration or quietly 'staying up to see the New Year' what will you be doing this year? Here are just a couple of the traditions associated with New Year.

Allendale guisers. - an new take on an old custom?

The term "guiser" is likely derived from the word "disguise" and used widely in English customs, denoting people dressed up to adopt another persona. The Northumbrian town of Allendale has a tradition on 31st December, whereby forty fancy-dressed guisers parade through the streets, carrying barrels of burning pitch on their heads. They are accompanied by a brass band and the ceremony culminates at midnight with a large bonfire lit in the Market Place.

            The barrels are cut down to a depth of 12 inches and filled with rags and shavings soaked in paraffin, although originally tar would have been used, and set alight. The more romantic traditionalists say this custom has its roots in ancient fire worship carried out by the Vikings, Celts and Druids - whereas the truth is slightly less exciting!

            It seems in the mid 1800's someone came up with the idea of burning tar barrels to light the path for the band that traditionally walked the streets on New Years Eve. Nearly a hundred years later, during the second World War, it seems the villagers were so proud of their tradition they were reluctant to stop it when blackouts were imposed.

            "When war broke out and many of the guisers were called up for military service, blackout regulations enforced the cancellation of the bonfire. To maintain continuity of the custom, the local carpenter, Launcelot Bell, designed a…small tar barrel which he carried unlit…On the customary site of the bonfire he placed it inside a tin trunk, set fire to it and closed the lid. All the local people then danced around the trunk."
A New Year's Gathering - the tradition.

            The tradition of large crowds of strangers gathering together on New Year's Eve is widespread and most cities have a focal spot where this takes place. In London, the Illustrated London News (1897) records significant numbers collecting outside St Pauls Cathedral to hear the newly installed bells ring in the New Year. All went well for the first few years until the crowds became over large and 'uproarious' and cathedral authorities stopped the New Year bell ringing. Undeterred, the crowds still gathered.
            A letter to the Times in 1935 voiced the opinion that there was nothing inherently wrong with mass-gathering but they should be better organised - especially the singing, as recorded below:

            "In England we seldom sing en masse, except at football matches. In this respect our failing on New Year's Ever are particularly deplorable….emotion finds no orderly outlet….Leaderless, they make no united musical effort. Instead, individuals and small groups sing. The strains of a dozen banal and tuneless ditties intermingle depressingly."

So how will you see the New Year in? Any "banal and tuneless ditties" for you…or something altogether more uplifting? Do comment and tell us about your New Year traditions...and dont forget there's a giveaway prize for one lucky person!!

Click link to full list of blog hop participants.


  1. I liked your facebook page and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll win "Eulogy's Secret." Thanks for a fun giveaway! Becca O.

  2. Eulogy's Secret sounds like a great read!

    Thanks for the giveaway & have a Happy New Year!

    elizabeth @
    Facebook: Elizabeth Kotkiewicz Hyatt

  3. I liked the facebook page. Thank you


  4. Hi,

    Oooh! Lovely facebook page, I would but can't press the like button for impact! Have deleted my FB pages due FBs slack security.

    So luv the white cat in blotto mode. ;)


  5. I like you on Facebook (Catie Russo) - thanks for the giveaway!

  6. I liked you too (anna cade). Would love Eulogy's Secret. Cat Pies is a great name! Loved all the info :)


  7. FB-Gloria Sell Schumann
    I'd like Eulogy's Secret. Thanks for the giveaway! Happy New Year!

    geschumann at live dot com

  8. Thanks for your giveaway. I love your cat pictures!!

    GFC follower-judy
    Liked FB page-judy cox


  9. hahaa - love the cat in the basket pic!

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