Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Year's Traditions

When I was very young -- halfway back through the last century -- my family shared the tradition of first footing with my best friend's family across the street.

Both my father and my friend's father were over six feet tall, and both had black hair, which suited the tradition perfectly. Our shared tradition insisted that the first-footer be tall and dark, carrying a piece of winter fuel. The only point on which we disagreed was whether or not the tradition began in Scotland or Wales. Not that it mattered, because we all had both Scottish and Welsh blood, in addition to whatever other blood with which our ancestors had graced us.

And because the boreal forests were all around us, there was ready access to winter fuel -- we kids used to go gather a few blown-down branches every year and pile them beside the back doors, breaking them into pieces small enough to be easily carried.

Our two families took turns hosting the pre-midnight parties. And after the stroke of midnight and the singing of Auld Lang Syne, my father and my best friend's father would grab their coats, and a piece of fuel, and leave the house. They would then take turns being the first to enter each others' houses, accept a cup of grog in thanks, and head back out into the night.

Thereafter, the two of them, grog mugs in mittened hands, would parade the streets with pieces of fuel, first-footing whoever wanted to invite them in (which was usually everyone on the street, and a few from other streets to boot), and all the time carrying on a lusty and grog-inspired argument of the Scots versus the Welsh. Those of us who still had the stamina would sometimes accompany them, gathering members of our little parade from each house along the way. The older ones would drag the younger ones on sleds and toboggans.

It would be romantic to say that we carried on until dawn. But, up where we were living at the time, dawn arrived sometime in February. We actually carried on until the first-footers completely lost their feet. Then we young 'uns would cede our places on the sleds and toboggans and carry them home.

Traditions -- from the relatively new to the relatively old -- vary from place to place around the world.

What's your tradition?


Blogger Tim said...

We have a simular tradition but it is done on halloween. After the kids were done the adults would grab a glass and go door to door looking for treats.... must be the Welsh, no Scottish in our family... and the winter fuel part deffinately sounds Welsh to me... The Welsh are infamous coal miners. My generation is the first in our family not to have worked in the coal mines, fortunately for us...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 2:24:00 PM  
Blogger Dez said...

My family was not into traditions of any kind, which became a tradition in itself.

So, my spouse and I follow the traditions of her side of the family - which was largely Slavic/Hungarian.

This generally involves a lot of drinking. Champagne is fine for toasts, but the important thing is to drink a lot of alcohol. Because of this, we usually celebrate at home.

At midnight, we go outside and bang pots together to make a lot of noise. I suppose this is to drive away evil spirits, but it's also a lot of fun.

New Year's Day we wash our hands with money.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 11:28:00 PM  

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