Monday, January 04, 2016

Old Customs in January




A ploughed field in January, photo: gb

January 1., New Year's Day :
It's a Helligdag (holiday) in Denmark and the other Nordic countries and an official flag day. New Year's Day was earlier called the Eighth Day of Christmas, but it was not always considered the first day of the year. Before Christianity came to Denmark it was probably Winter Solstice on 21/22 December which was considered the first day of the year. When Christianity gradually was accepted  the 25th december, the birth of Christ was the first day of the year for centuries. Not until the reform of the calendar in 1700 it seems that the first day of the New Year was commonly considered to be January 1. And still is!

Old Customs:
When the people in the farm woke up on New Year's morning they must not do anything at all before they had eaten something. After this the farmer went outside shooting the new year welcome like he had done the night before - if he had a gun! Then the household had a good and very solid breakfast. Later they all went to church, where they 'sacrificed' (mostly money) to the vicar and the parish clerk. The rest of the day people had a pleasant time with quiet pursuits.

New Year was always one of the big feasts and mærkedage (red-letter days) of the year. As early as around year 1000 (Canute the Great) it was decided that the eighth Day of Christmas had to be fixed  skiftedag' ( a notice day and a day on which servants used to change jobs). But most important were probably the omens from where the farmer read signs about the harvest of the year to come. The harvest was the most important thing of all. In the old society it was crucial, that there was food enough for the household, or else they had to starve in the next winter.

In the ancient societies they lived "from hand to mouth". Most omens had to do with the weather and the harvest situation. Up till the middle of the 1800s more than 90 % of the Danish population was living in the country and was completely dependent on the yields and the significance of the climate.

Superstition and omens for New Year's Day:
Like the weather is on this day, so it will be on Midsummer's Day.
On New Year's morning the farmer looked at the sky, for if the sky was red before sunrise the coming year would be marked with war, plague and bad weather in general.
Another omen said that if the sun on New Year's Day is shining as long as it takes to saddle a horse, then it will be a fertile year.
If you swept well indoors on New Year's Day, you would bring good weather to the harvest in the New Year.


2 comments:

Gerry Snape said...

Is that Canute the same one who tried to hold back the sea?....we live close to Knutsford....in other words the ford across the river where Knut crossed....his is the towns emblem!

Thyra said...

Hej Gerry, yes it's this Canute, and he did it to show his men that no one but God could hold back the sea. That's the version I have been taught!

I've just taken a walk in Knutsford on Google Earth, it looks like a villa-town , many lovely houses and gardens
There are so many lovely towns in England. I watch Antique Road trip each morning in this period ( with Tim Wonnacot as the speaker and the two dealers driving in a vintage car from town to town) and it's very exciting to see how pretty the towns are and how many good antique shops there are. I like that.

Back to Knut. Here he was in Knutsford that good old guy, one thousand years ago! It seemed he liked Britain too!
Grethe ´)