As the evening advances, the fire is piled high - for the brighter the fire, the bitter the luck. The members of the household seat themselves round the hearth, and when the hands of the clock approach the hour, the head of the house rises, goes to the main door, opens it wide, and holds it thus until the last stroke of midnight has died away. Then he shuts it quietly and returns to the family circle. He has let the Old Year out and the New Year in. Now greetings and small gifts are exchanged, glasses are filled - and already the First-Footers are at the door.
The First-Footer, on crossing the threshold, greets the family with "A Gude New Year to ane and a'!" (Sc. A good New Year to one and all!) or simply "A Happy New Year!", and pours out a glass from the flask he carries. This must be drunk to the dregs by the head of the house, who, in turn, pours out a glass for each of his visitors. The glass handed to the First-Footer himself must also be drunk to the dregs. A popular toast is:
"Your good health!"
The First-Footer must take something to eat as well as to drink, and after an exchange of greetings they go off again on their rounds.
TAR - BARREL BURNING
The custom of men welcoming in the New Year by carrying pans of blazing tar on their heads is still kept up at Allendale,Northumberland, on New Year's Eve. Each of the "carriers", in fancy costume, balances on his head the end of a barrel (or "kit") filled with inflammable material. The procession is timed to reach the unlit bonfire shortly before midnight, then each man in turn tosses his flaming "headgear" on to the bonfire, setting it ablaze. On the stroke of twelve, all join hands and dance around the fire, singing Auld Lang Syne (Sc. The days of long ago). The song by Robert Burns (1759 - 1796), Scotland's national poet.
Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min'?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
Chorus - For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll talk a cup o'kindness yet
For auld lang syne.
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Clement Clarke Moore
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."
flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about
them; and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which
shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will toward men.