It All Adds Up
New Year Traditions
The Irish New Year festival is known as Samhain which meant summer ends and was celebrated on 31 October. The festival has survived as Halloween.
It was at this time they hold their General Assembly. This was held in the out in the air parliament where the laws were renewed and accounts of events, details of births, deaths and marriages, were recorded.
This day was considered of great danger for it was when the spirits of the dead returned to earth. It was believed the spirits could do harm unless precautions were taken. The Celtic priests go into the woods on New Year's Eve to gather bunches of mistletoe which they handed out to people to protect them from any harm. Also bonfires were lit to drive away evil forces. They also believed that it was safer to stay indoors as fairies were abroad on New Year's Eve.
In Ireland the girls would go to bed with sprigs of mistletoe, or holly and ivy leaves under their pillows so they would go to bed dreaming of their future husbands. They might also chant:
"Oh, ivy green and holly red,
In Ireland in the west the direction of the wind blowing at New Year would indicate the trend of politics in the coming year. If it blew from the west it would flourish, if from the east the English would have upper hand.
Also on New Year's Eve if they ate a very large supper they would have plenty of food for the coming year.
One custom that was practiced on New Year's Eve was to take a large loaf of Christmas bread or cake outside the house and hammer it against the closed doors and windows, this was done so as to drive out any misfortune and let happiness in.
The Druids gave a gift of twigs from the mistletoe, as this was a plant that was sacred to them as a magic source of fertility. It would bestow on the recipient a fruitful year in the number of children, as well as the amount of cattle and the amount of crop.
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