Happy New Year

I wish all South Leeds Life readers a very Happy New Year with the hope that life will improve for all of us.

Older South Leeds residents will recall the time when New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day did not mean a great deal apart from many going to a local pub which had a licence extension so that customers could see the New Year in.

Dance halls also remained open until midnight. Workers had very few days off on holiday and New Year’s day was not one of them. And regardless of what they were doing the night before they had to turn in to work on New Year’s Day.

I recall my early days in work when we had the two days holiday of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We always hoped that Christmas would fall on a Tuesday or a Wednesday when we would have the additional day of Monday or Friday off work, even though it was without pay. It was not until 1 January 1974 when legislation made New Year’s Day a public holiday.

In Scotland New Year’s Day was a public holiday but Scottish people did not have Boxing Day holiday. My husband was one of the last to be called up for National Service in the Army. He tells me that over Christmas the camp closed down but guards, and a minimum of catering staff to feed them, were left on duty. It was the recruits from Scotland who stayed behind and then had the New Year off after others had returned to camp. From January 1974 Boxing Day in Scotland was legislated to be a public holiday but I am not sure whether they had to wait until December 1974 for this to happen.

A Scottish tradition on Hogmanay was a ‘first footer’ – that is a friend would step over the house threshold immediately after midnight with a lump of coal to bring good luck and fortune, but no doubt originally to help supply the coal bucket.

Of course, almost all people now do not have any coal so that tradition has gone. But it was customary for friends and relations to visit each other’s houses and imbibing of a drink, usually of whisky and I understand that to a certain extent, that visiting tradition continues.

The festive season continues for all of the UK until Twelfth Night on 6 January, called Epiphany in the Christian Church. It was an important day to celebrate when the Magi visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. In Medieval times Twelfth Night was a great festival but, perhaps, nowadays we may have had enough of it by then. Certainly, we take down our decorations the next day and some superstitiously regard it as bad luck to keep them up.

This is not the case in Austria, southern Germany and most of Switzerland. The main celebration in those countries is Christmas Eve called Weise Nacht (White Night) and Weise Nacht cards are sent to each other. They keep their decorations up until Ash Wednesday when the week prior there is much celebration called Faschings Week – (Faschings meaning Carnival). Those countries are usually covered in snow from mid-December to early March and bright colourful decorations certainly lift one’s spirits.

We may not have much snow in South Leeds but we have snowdrops. As I write I see one or two lifting their heads above the soil. We can look forward to our green spring with snowdrops, crocus, daffodils and tulips and blossom on our trees.
And a New Year tradition still keeps going – making a New Year resolution. This may be personal such as resolving to give up smoking, to walk a mile every day, to do twenty press-ups etc. Or it could be a resolution to do things in the community – attend all community meetings or to help out at foodbanks or go on a weekly litter-pick.

Whatever you may wish, I wish that your resolutions come to fruition.


This post was written by Hon Ald Elizabeth Nash


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