How we celebrated the New Year
Ring out the old, ring in the new – as the bells welcome in the year 2019, Yours writer Marion Clarke shares readers’ stories of how they celebrate the New Year north and south of the border
‘We kept other customs such as turning the taps on before midnight to get rid of the old year’s bad luck’
Funny how times change – when I was young New Year’s Eve always meant a party with everyone joining hands at midnight to sing Auld Lang Syne followed by much hugging and kissing and doing the hokey cokey out into the street. These days I am more likely to be tucked up in bed with a good book well before Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny gets under way!
Not so Sharon Haston, a true Scot who wouldn’t dream of retiring before the clock strikes 12: “I was so excited the first time I was allowed to stay up to ‘see in the bells’ and helped Mum lay out goodies such as the traditional black bun. Shortly after midnight, friends and neighbours arrived, all carrying bottles of whisky and packets of shortbread. I was allowed to sample a very weak Advocaat and lemonade and felt very grown up.
“Guests all took their turn to sing with everyone getting up to dance in our living room. A piper arrived and I can tell you that bagpipes sound extremely loud when played indoors! The next day we had a family dinner of steak pie followed by clootie dumplings. Delicious!”
Mrs C Fletcher also has happy Hogmanay memories: “My father was proud of his Scottish heritage so New Year celebrations were even more important than Christmas. Our family customs included wearing new clothes and entertaining guests. A tall, dark man was persuaded to bring luck by ‘first footing’. As we lived in the south of England, our first footer was usually the only person to be seen on the doorstep waiting for the stroke of midnight and one year he was mistaken for a would-be burglar by a passing policeman. After we had explained why he was there, the policeman joined our party!
“As my mother was superstitious we kept other New Year customs as well, such as turning the taps on just before midnight to get rid of the old year’s bad luck, eating something sweet like cake, and turning over our money.”
Yorkshire lass Heather McEwen now lives in Norfolk where she says local folk refer to it as Old Year’s Night. She recalls: “When I was young we would always spend it at my grandma’s. The family brought food and we played card games or had a beetle drive which was great fun. Come the chimes of midnight, as I was the one with the darkest hair, I would enter the house carrying a piece of coal to bring good luck and was rewarded with a few coins.” There is one custom that becomes increasingly poignant as years go by – raising a glass to absent friends inevitably brings to mind the loved ones we sorely miss. For Isobel Simpson, who hails from Aberdeenshire, this happened last year when her son played
The Corries’ song Dark Lochnagar on his accordion, standing in front of a roaring log fire, surrounded by friends and family: “I was so proud of him – it was absolutely beautiful and very touching because I knew he was thinking of his grandpa, whom he was very close to.”
In the village where June Cobham grew up, everyone went to the local pub to celebrate as a community: “Just before midnight we all went outside and stood in a circle in the middle of the road. We joined hands as the landlord counted down to twelve o’clock when we sang Auld Lang Syne before going back in to be given a free drink to toast the New Year.” As June points out, there wasn’t much traffic on the roads back then so less chance of being run over by a late-night reveller!
For Heather Moulson, New Year’s Eve 1976 is memorable for all the wrong reasons: “We were at a marvellous party and I was dancing with my boyfriend to Stevie Wonder singing, Isn’t She Lovely. We were both anticipating the arrival of 1977 and wondering what it would bring us.
“Half an hour after midnight, as we were leaving, my boyfriend got into an argument and was punched on the nose. The brand-new year didn’t look so promising after that!”
‘Guests took turns singing with everyone getting up to dance... and the next day we had a family dinner of steak pie and clootie dumplings’
Sylvia Adamson thinks she may have spoiled new year for quite a few people when she was 18: “A friend and I went to a dance at the local town hall. The next morning my mother called the doctor to see me and he diagnosed chicken pox. As I hadn’t been short of partners
at the dance, I’ve often wondered how many of them woke with chicken pox the next day!” That sounds worse than the usual hangover, Sylvia.
Poor Elaine Turner didn’t even make it to the party: “My boyfriend John was taking me to a dance. I had a new dress and was looking forward to our first New Year’s Eve together, then at around four o’clock my ear started to ache. Mum rubbed some oil in and put a warm scarf around my head. By the time John arrived at 7.30pm, I was in agony. He stayed and held my hand all evening. I cried the New Year in. The doctor said I had an abscess and prescribed an antibiotic. Luckily, the experience didn’t put John off and we were married two years later.”
Marion as a young girl
Party time! Barbara Nuttall’s daughter Heather dressed up as a fairy with a banner to let in the New Year of 1978