Ringing in the New Year – Victorian Style

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Eleanor Rose

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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
 

LoriAnn

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Many believed that what you were doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve was foretelling of the coming year.
Uh oh. :O o: :tongue:

Staying home and going to bed might foretell of illness or worse during the coming year.
I wonder if spending the entire evening knitting means I'll be a rather productive knitter for the rest of the year. I have some fiber friends who make it a point to start a new project on New Years Day with the same idea in mind ~ the timing and intention will positively affect the rest of the year.

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.
Oh Lord, can you imagine how that ended up?
 

Hawkeye Brehm

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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
I wonder if there was a superstition connected to working on New Year's Day.
 
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Eleanor Rose

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Growing up, my grandma still held true to many of these superstitions. I never realized how far back they actually went. Maybe that's why most businesses used to close on New Year's Day. You may be on to something @Hawkeye Brehm.

And yes @LoriAnn, I can imagine how that ended up. The same way it would today if you and I went bar hopping. :giggle:
 

Hawkeye Brehm

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Growing up, my grandma still held true to many of these superstitions. I never realized how far back they actually went. Maybe that's why most businesses used to close on New Year's Day. You may be on to something @Hawkeye Brehm.

And yes @LoriAnn, I can imagine how that ended up. The same way it would today if you and I went bar hopping. :giggle:
Hard to say, but it's definitely possible!
 

LoriAnn

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This is yet another fun topic, Miss Scarlett. :smile: I started hunting around and found a blog post that features an example of the kind of calling card a gentleman would leave on New Years Day.

Nice, right?

DSCN4107.JPG


But hang on...that little door opens.

Woo, it's August! Gosh-all-Potomac, git that kissing ball over here, Mildred!

DSCN4084.JPG


Photo thanks to Gina at Victorian Wanna Be.
 
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Hawkeye Brehm

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This is yet another fun topic, Miss Scarlett. :smile: I started hunting around and found a blog post that features an example of the kind of calling card a gentleman would leave on New Years Day.

Nice, right?

View attachment 171610

But hang on...that little door opens.

Woo, it's August! Gosh-all-Potomac, git that kissing ball over here, Mildred!

View attachment 171611

Photo thanks to Gina at Victorian Wanna Be.
I might have to try that!
 
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Eleanor Rose

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And how about Phantom Balls?

"Victorians of the middle class would attend what were known as “Phantom Balls.” These were parties which called for ghostly costumes, card games, and even a bit of football for the men."

Victorian Trading Co

Does this mean we'd get to dress up and wear those funky cool, elaborate masks?
I would never have passed up a chance to go to a "Phantom Ball" especially if I could wear one of those masks!
 
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Women who wanted to dress properly for their New Year’s reception could consult the January 1854 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book. Sadly, Godey’s magazine lamented in 1897, “the good old custom of keeping open house on New Year’s Day, has, like a great many old-time customs fallen into desuetude” and that in large cities calls “are considered extremely bad form.”
 
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Hawkeye Brehm

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View attachment 171620

Women who wanted to dress properly for their New Year’s reception could consult the January 1854 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book. Sadly, Godey’s magazine lamented in 1897, “the good old custom of keeping open house on New Year’s Day, has, like a great many old-time customs fallen into desuetude” and that in large cities calls “are considered extremely bad form.”
Oh, yum! :tongue:
 
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LoriAnn

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Why am I charmed by anything Scottish? :smile:

"Queen Victoria had a passion for the New Year’s Eve celebration of Hogmanay, which means the last day of the year. While it is a Scottish tradition, the origins are most likely Norse or Gaelic. As with most celebrations, the customs vary from one area to another. Gift-giving and special attention to the “First-Footing” were critical to New Year’s Eve in the Victorian Era, as they are today."

"First Footing" literally meant the first foot to cross over the threshold of your house after Midnight. Ideally the person would have a gift of food, whisky, coal, salt, or greenery. To really lock in the luck for the new year, this individual should also be tall, dark, and handsome. No kidding, blonds were bad luck.

Racing Nellie Bly
 
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