Here in the UK, we are extremely rich in folklore and history, meaning that throughout the centuries some particularly unique customs surrounding the arrival of the New Year have arisen.
Below are five interesting traditions used to welcome in the New Year:
Still practised, mainly in Scotland, this tradition states that the first foot through the door after midnight should be that of a dark-haired man bringing symbols of good luck and prosperity such as coal, bread and whisky. It’s believed this tradition goes back to the Viking invasion where a blonde man was somewhat of a bad omen.
Also still practised in Scotland, mainly the Scottish Highlands, saining is a ritual that takes place on New Year’s Day morning. ‘Magic’ water is consumed; that is water that has been sourced from a river where it is believed both the living and the dead cross, as well as sprinkled attentively throughout the household. Then, a deep cleanse of the household is carried out by burning juniper branches – the smoke is believed to drive away any evil spirits. Finally, all windows and doors are opened to welcome in the fresh New Year’s air.
Auld Lang Syne
Written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, the song has come to symbolise reunion, remembrance and reconciliation of the old year whilst moving forward with hope and friendship. This song is now sung throughout the UK at the stoke of midnight and is a strong symbol of New Year’s Eve.
Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits
In Yorkshire, it is customary to chant during the countdown of the clock striking midnight; “black rabbits, black rabbits, black rabbits” and then, as the clock chimes midnight, say “white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits”. This strange tradition is believed to bring good luck in the coming year.
Flaming Whisky Barrels
At the Allendale Tar Barrel Festival in Northumberland, 45 whisky barrels filled with burning tar are balanced on the heads of local people, known as guisers, and paraded around the town. At midnight, the parade culminates in the centre of town as the barrels are thrown onto a bonfire with the cry of “be damned to he who throws last!”.