New Year’s Eve Fox-fires at the Changing Tree, Ōji — Utagawa Hiroshige

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Last Day (Peanuts)

last day

A Scapegoat for Promiscuous Drunks, Friendly Calls, and Humbug Resolutions

mark-twain

From Mark Twain’s January 1st, 1863 column in the Territorial Enterprise:

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. To-day, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

Last day (Peanuts)

peanut-newyear

Shooting the Witches on New Year’s Eve (From Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough)

On New Year’s Eve, which is Saint Sylvester’s Day, Bohemian lads, armed with guns, form themselves into circles and fire thrice into the air. This is called “Shooting the Witches” and is supposed to frighten the witches away. The last of the mystic twelve days is Epiphany or Twelfth Night, and it has been selected as a proper season for the expulsion of the powers of evil in various parts of Europe. Thus at Brunnen, on the Lake of Lucerne, boys go about in procession on Twelfth Night carrying torches and making a great noise with horns, bells, whips, and so forth to frighten away two female spirits of the wood, Strudeli and Strätteli. The people think that if they do not make enough noise, there will be little fruit that year. Again, in Labruguière, a canton of Southern France, on the eve of Twelfth Day the people run through the streets, jangling bells, clattering kettles, and doing everything to make a discordant noise. Then by the light of torches and blazing faggots they set up a prodigious hue and cry, an ear-splitting uproar, hoping thereby to chase all the wandering ghosts and devils from the town.

From Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough.

 

Last Day (Peanuts)

last day

“New Year’s Eve” / “New Year’s Night” — D.H.Lawrence

Two poems by D.H. Lawrence:

“New Year’s Eve”—

There are only two things now,
The great black night scooped out
And this fire-glow.

This fire-glow, the core,
And we the two ripe pips
That are held in store.

Listen, the darkness rings
As it circulates round our fire.
Take off your things.

Your shoulders, your bruised throat!
Your breasts, your nakedness!
This fiery coat!

As the darkness flickers and dips,
As the firelight falls and leaps
From your feet to your lips!

“New Year’s Night”—

Now you are mine, to-night at last I say it;
You’re a dove I have bought for sacrifice,
And to-night I slay it.

Here in my arms my naked sacrifice!
Death, do you hear, in my arms I am bringing
My offering, bought at great price.

She’s a silvery dove worth more than all I’ve got.
Now I offer her up to the ancient, inexorable God,
Who knows me not.

Look, she’s a wonderful dove, without blemish or spot!
I sacrifice all in her, my last of the world,
Pride, strength, all the lot.

All, all on the altar! And death swooping down
Like a falcon. ’Tis God has taken the victim;
I have won my renown.

 

A Scapegoat for Promiscuous Drunks, Friendly Calls, and Humbug Resolutions

mark-twain

From Mark Twain’s January 1st, 1863 column in the Territorial Enterprise:

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. To-day, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

Basil Wolverton’s Guide to Drinking

“A Song for New Year’s Eve” — William Cullen Bryant

“A Song for New Year’s Eve” by William Cullen Bryant–

Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay—
Stay till the good old year,
So long companion of our way,
Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong,
Has now no hopes to wake;
Yet one hour more of jest and song
For his familiar sake.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One mirthful hour, and then away.

The kindly year, his liberal hands
Have lavished all his store.
And shall we turn from where he stands,
Because he gives no more?
Oh stay, oh stay,
One grateful hour, and then away.

Days brightly came and calmly went,
While yet he was our guest;
How cheerfully the week was spent!
How sweet the seventh day’s rest!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One golden hour, and then away.

Dear friends were with us, some who sleep
Beneath the coffin-lid:
What pleasant memories we keep
Of all they said and did!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One tender hour, and then away.

Even while we sing, he smiles his last,
And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
Oh be the new as kind!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One parting strain, and then away

“The Old Year” — John Clare

John Clare’s poem “The Old Year”—

The Old Year’s gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he’d a neighbour’s face,
In this he’s known by none.

All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they’re here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall–
A guest to every heart’s desire,
And now he’s nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year’s Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.

Happy Hogmanay

From the OED:

hogmanay

Sc. and north. Eng. ({sm}h{rfa}gm{schwa}{sm}ne{shti})
Forms: 7 hogmynae, 8 hagmane, -menai, 8-9 hagmena, -menay, (hagman heigh), hogmanay, (9 hogmena, -menay, -maney, hanganay). [Of obscure history, noted only from 17th c. App. of French origin: see note below.]
The name given in Scotland (and some parts of the north of England) to the last day of the year, also called ‘Cake-day’; the gift of an oatmeal cake, or the like, which children expect, and in some parts systematically solicit, on that day; the word shouted by children calling at friends’ houses and soliciting this customary gift.
c1680 [see b]. 1693 Scotch Presbyt. Eloq. (1738) 120 It is ordinary among some Plebeians in the South of Scotland, to go about from Door to Door upon New-Year’s Eve, crying Hagmane. 1790 Gentl. Mag. LX. I. 499/1 Concerning the origin of the expression ‘Hagman Heigh’. Ibid., In..Scotland, and in the North of England, till very lately, it was customary for every body to make and receive presents amongst their friends on the eve of the new year, which present was called an Hagmenay. Ibid. II. 616/2 On the last night of the old year (peculiarly called Hagmenai). 1792 Caledonian Mercury 2 Jan. (Jam.), The cry of Hogmanay Trololay is of usage immemorial in this country. 1805 J. NICOL Poems I. 27 (Jam.) The cottar weanies, glad an’ gay..Sing at the doors for hogmanay. 1825 BROCKETT s.v. Hagmena, The poor children in Newcastle, in expectation of their hogmena, go about from house to house knocking at the doors, singing their carols, and [saying] ‘Please will you give us wor hogmena’. 1826-41 R. CHAMBERS Pop. Rhymes Scot. (1858) 295 The children on coming to the door, cry ‘Hogmanay!’ which is in itself a sufficient announcement of their demands. Ibid. 296 Cries appropriate to the morning of Hogmanay..‘Get up, goodwife, and shake your feathers, And dinna think that we are beggars; For we are bairns come out to play, Get up and gie’s our hogmanay.’ 1827 HONE Table-Bk. I. 7 The Hagman Heigh is an old custom observed in Yorkshire on new year’s eve. 1830 SCOTT Jrnl. II. 360 We spent our Hogmanay pleasantly enough. 1884 St. James’s Gaz. 27 Dec. 6/1 Seasonable mummery..was reserved for Hogmanay. 1890 Scott. Antiq. June 40 This is the sort of thing they used to sing as their ‘Hagmena Song’ in Yorkshire. 1893 HESLOP Northumb. Gloss. s.v., In North Northumberland the hogmanay is a small cake given to children on Old Year’s Day; or the spice bread and cheese, with liquor, given away on the same day. 1897 E. W. B. NICHOLSON Golspie 100-108.

b. attrib. and Comb., as hogmanay cake, day, night, concert, song, etc.

c1680 in Law Mem. 191 note [Protest of the Gibbites] They solemnly renounce..Pasch-Sunday, Hallow-even, Hogmynae-night, Valentine’s even [etc.]. 1826-41 R. CHAMBERS Pop. Rhymes Scot. (1858) 295 A particular individual..has frequently resolved two bolls of [oat]meal into hogmanay cakes. 1864 BURTON Scot Abr. I. v. 297 The eve that ushers in the new year is called in Scotland Hogmanay Night. 1897 Westm. Gaz. 21 Dec. 6/3 On New Year’s Eve there is to be a grand Hogmanay concert for the special benefit of patriotic Scots in London.”
Watch the fireworks: