- Nov 26, 2016
- central NC
Our Victorians loved their superstitions. Many believed that what you were doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve was foretelling of the coming year. This might well be why going out and socializing became such a popular thing to do to welcome in the New Year. Staying home and going to bed might foretell of illness or worse during the coming year.
Numerous superstitions surrounded New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day during the 19th century. Some examples included throwing out ashes from the hearth. Throwing them out the night before was supposed to allow for a clean slate to start the New Year off right. Doing any kind of work on New Year’s Day, especially laundry was considered very unlucky. In addition, every person, no matter how young, was to have money in their pocket on New Year’s Day. To not do this was to risk poverty during the coming year. It was also considered unlucky to have fire leave the house in the form of a lantern or candle, as was having the fire in the stove or hearth go out on New Year’s Day.
During the latter part of the 19th century, the wealthy held open houses on New Year’s Day. The ladies (and boys up to age 10) entertained and served guests a buffet with egg nog (usually laced with bourbon, rum, or brandy). Everyone dressed in their holiday finery. Gentlemen visited and eligible bachelors left their calling cards. Over time it became a competitive event to see how many homes could be visited and how much egg nog could be drunk before the end of the day. Due to this raucous behavior, the holiday evolved from being an open house to an invitation only affair.
Source: Civil War Archives