Over the years it has changed (one big change was going from horse drawn floats to motorized), but on every New Year’s Day marching bands, equestrian riders, elaborate floats, and a Grand Marshal make the 2-hour trek along 5.1 miles of Colorado Blvd. (This year’s Grand Marshal is Paula Deen. Other notables include George Lucas, Mr. Rogers, Regis Philbin, Mickey Mouse, Carol Burnett, Kermit the Frog, Shirley Temple, Rev. Billy Graham, and Bob Hope, to name a few.) Thousands of people camp out overnight to get a spot along the street, or pay to get a reserved seat in the grandstands that are put up for this occasion.
Volunteers work around the clock for days to get these floats finished in time to pull out onto Orange Grove and line up. The television cameras are stationed at the big turn onto Colorado Blvd., and there are times you wonder whether the larger floats will actually be able to make the turn. And every year the floats get bigger and more elaborate with moving or shooting parts, acrobatics, animals doing amazing stunts, and anything else imaginable.
Over the years, we have watched for someone we knew who might be marching in a band or riding on a float. This year, a childhood friend’s daughter-in-law rode on the Donate Life float, as she benefited from someone who was an organ donor.
I do have one regret regarding the Rose Parade. I wish I had volunteered at least once to help decorate a float. Each year as I watched how they were made, I said to myself that was something I would love to have done, but time slipped away, family got in the way, and now we live half way across the country. Someday, though, I might just have to make a trip back there and do it. That’s one for the bucket list!
I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!
The festive season is all but finished, with Twelfth Night quickly approaching. There is confusion about which evening is the actual last night of the twelve days of Christmas; but, generally, January 5 is considered the final merrymaking occasion of the holidays. After midnight this coming Wednesday, the Lord of Misrule must relinquish the crown granted by a bean in his Twelfth Night cake; and a topsy-turvy world will return to normal.
A return to normal may also prevail after Christmas trees are dismantled and all the sparkly, heirloom, and homemade ornaments are packed away. Evergreen boughs that spruced up our homes with natural beauty and scent have done their duty, and the needles they shed will be swept away like the out-going year. Rooms may seem quite bare and cheerless afterward; but one absolutely must take down holiday decorations and greenery by Twelfth Night or risk bad luck.
We should be grateful we don’t have to clear up the mess left by a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, (however, five gold rings … no fuss, no muss), six geese a laying, seven swans a swimming, eight maids a milking, nine ladies dancing, ten lords a leaping, eleven pipers piping, and twelve drummers drumming.
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” song was published in 1780 in England, and I don’t have statistics about the cost of the items back then. In 2010 all those multiple gifts mentioned in the song would have set you back $96,824. If you had only purchased one of each item instead, the price would have been $23,439. The most affordable gift was a $12 partridge (pear tree not included); the most expensive was the hire of nine ladies dancing ($6,294.03).
The custom of New Year gift-giving, which did not last beyond the late 19th century, was practiced by all spheres of society. Neighbourhood children wassailed and were rewarded with money, mince pies, and fruit. At New Year tenants presented the lord
of the manor with produce; he, in turn, gave a gift to his monarch. Husbands gave their wives money at the beginning of January to buy pins and other personal items for the coming year … hence, the term ‘pin money‘. (Who can forget Mrs. Bennet’s raptures when she learned about Lizzy and Mr. Darcy. “How rich and great you will be! What pin-money! What jewels …”)
We’re back to jewelry and five gold rings again. So, the following post will contain some New Year’s pearls of wisdom as well as a few facts, quotes, and vintage images.
The Dutch believe eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good luck.
Anything in the shape of a ring symbolizes ‘coming full circle’.
The celebration of New Year is the oldest of all holidays.
Babylonians made New Year’s resolutions to return borrowed farming implements.
Resolutions go in one year and out the other.
“Each age has deemed the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.” ~ Sir Walter Scott
The first ball-drop to signal the passing of time was in 1833
at England’s Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
In Spain at midnight on January 1,
it’s traditional to eat a grape on each chime of the clock as the New Year begins.
Traditionally, on the stroke of midnight householders open both their back door to let the old year out and the front door to welcome in first-footers and the New Year.
In the American South, black-eyed peas are eaten for good luck.
Perhaps the rest of the world should give peas a chance.
Some Canadians plunge into icy-cold water during New Year’s Day polar bear swims.
Oh, those crazy Canucks!
Sydney, Australia, is the first major city to celebrate the New Year every January 1.
Here’s brief advice about New Year’s Day apparel when in Rome. Wear red underwear on January 1. Italians believe it will bring good luck in the coming year.
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity, and its first chapter is New Year’s day.” ~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce
My grandparents were from Newfoundland. Early in the seventeenth century, settlers from England and Ireland arrived there; and from the British Isles the colonists brought traditions such as “mumming” or “Jannying”. Costumed and masked revelers still pay house-to-house visits to their neighbours in that province’s small communities during the holiday season.
Mumming throughout Britain was usually done during the Twelve Days of Christmas, but it was also performed around All Souls’ Day (November 2), which, of course, follows All Hallows Eve and Day.
The Maritime village in which I grew up had the usual trick-or-treating children on Hallowe’en; but we were also, to my younger self’s dismay, visited by costumed adults during the night of October 31. These men and women (often disguised as the opposite sex) covered themselves from head to toe and went door to door. Oh, how I wished they had stopped at our threshold; however, they were warmly welcomed right into our kitchen with its immense wood-burning stove and comfy chesterfield, armchair, and rocker. They came singly, in pairs, or groups; and these mummers would remain mum and communicate solely by (ugh!) mime until my mum guessed their identities. Refreshments were served, and they only revealed their faces when, and if, correctly identified. I remember hiding behind the stove for what seemed an eternity until a red devil was revealed to be my friend’s eldest sister. To this day I do not enjoy mime.
I wonder whether the Austen family, in their small community of Steventon, was visited by mummers. This tradition of dressing up in costume on holidays and visiting (begging) door to door dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing.
“We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door,
But we are neighbours’ children
Whom you have seen before.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.”
HAPPY NEW YEAR
TO ALL AUSTEN AUTHORS’ READERS AND WRITERS
AT THIS TIME OF
HOPE AND RENEWAL
~ by J. Marie Croft ~
In 1752 (23 years before Jane Austen’s birth) January 1 was officially designated as New Year’s Day in Britain, Ireland, and the British Empire – except for Scotland, which had already been celebrating on that particular day since the 1600s. Aye, the Scots have obviously known for a long time the best ways to let in the New Year. Scottish Hogmanay festivities begin at Christmas and continue through Twelfth Night.
So, the last hours of the Old Year in New Scotland (Nova Scotia) seem an appropriate occasion to write about Scotland’s Hogmanay celebration. With origins in pagan times, Hogmanay has been more important than Christmas; and its traditions include sweeping out the old year with a broom, fireball swinging, the burning of the clavie, singing Auld Lang Syne (which translates to ‘old long ago’) after the bells have rung, and first-footing.
The latter involves being the first to cross a friend’s or neighbour’s threshold after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day. The first-footer, usually bearing a bottle of whiskey, is believed to positively affect the household’s fortune for the coming year. Symbolic gifts of greenery and commodities such as shortbread (food), a lump of coal (heat), and salt (money) are given to the householder who, in turn, provides the guest with refreshments (an oatcake, black bun, or seed cake and tea or whiskey). In olden days, ale, nutmeg, and whiskey were mixed together in a copper pot. Known as a Het Pint, this mulled brew was offered to the first-footer, or ‘Lucky Bird’. This special visitor entered through the front door, was silent until he had put coal on or poked the home’s fire, and departed through the back door.
But, wait. Especially in some regions, there are certain qualifications in order to become a welcomed, luck-bringing first-footer. Women and fair-haired people usually do not qualify. Typically, a tall, dark, young, healthy, good-looking male is preferred.
This first-footing tradition, which originated long before Jane Austen’s time, was in practice not only in the northern countries but also throughout England in the 19th century. First-footing was of particular interest to me while writing Mr. Darcy Takes the Plunge. In my book Darcy and Elizabeth settle in Northumberland, near the Scottish border.
Elizabeth was surprised to discover a number of her neighbours embraced customs of the Scottish Hogmanay celebration; and the first-footer to cross Northumbrella’s threshold after midnight was the tall, dark-haired Randall Candel. The young man was thrilled to have beaten other revelers to the punch and hoped he would, in reality, be the bringer of good fortune to the household. The Darcys received traditional gifts of coal, whiskey, shortbread, fruitcake, and salt; and, in turn, they provided their guests with an endless supply of food, drink, and revelry. The estate’s festivities carried on well into New Year’s Day, and the merrymakers unabashedly sang Auld Lang Syne until the song was done to a cow’s thumb and the cows came home.
The song, Auld Lang Syne, suggests we remember long-standing friendships. As we say good-bye to 2010, I’m feeling rather sentimental about the friendships formed through a mutual love of Jane Austen.
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
I’m feeling very well traveled at the moment. In the last ten days, I’ve driven from Wisconsin to Massachusetts, turned around and flown back, driven out to Massachusetts again the same day (it’s a long story!), and now have a few short days here before I get to – you guessed it – drive back home. It’s a good thing I like watching the scenery change!
This is the third year my family has come to Cape Cod for Christmas. It’s an important family tradition to all of us. Most people would think it’s an odd place to come during the middle of the winter, but I love it. It’s very quiet and has a small town feeling, and I can take long beach walks without meeting more than a few people.
My first Cape Cod Christmas, though, was fictional. It takes place in Morning Light, the soon to be published sequel to Pemberley by the Sea/The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice. The story is inspired by Persuasion and the heroine, Annie, ends up spending Christmas alone in a snowstorm. It’s a turning point for her, starting out lonely and sad, and developing a sense of her own strength and future as she reaches out to her neighbors.
Morning Light has turned out to be the book of coincidences for me. Parts of the book keep coming to life for me. In the book, Annie takes in a stray Chow Chow. A year after writing that, a stray Chow Chow ran into the road in front of me here. In another coincidence, Annie lives on a bluff in the town of West Falmouth, a place I hadn’t been for 20 years, and by a fluke, we now spend Christmas on the same bluff, about half a mile from where I’d imagined Annie’s house. On my first Christmas here, I faced a snowstorm and power outage, just like Annie, and ended up making the same cold trek into town that she did. There were also sad coincidences – in Morning Light, a minor character is diagnosed with renal cancer, so naturally I did a ton of research on it. A year later, my father was also diagnosed with renal cancer. I never did explain to his doctor why I had such an astonishing depth of knowledge on the subject, but it was certainly a help to me.
It’s strange how writing brings us to these new places, both good and bad. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Have you had experiences with fiction coming to life?
“I see no reason why I must wear this hideous costume. It’s degrading. May I remind you this is my house, I am master here, Elizabeth! Certainly that alone should make me, of all people, exempt from such foolishness. And why is Fitzwilliam Lord of Misrule this year? Again! He’s always Lord of Misrule and all he does is drink too much, dance like a fool and give the children too much candy, then he plays terrible tricks on me, sneaks upstairs and goes to sleep while I must entertain the entire countryside in some preposterous costume. I mean I’m in a preposterous costume, not the entire countryside. Good heavens, the toes on these shoes curl up, Elizabeth! Who am I supposed to be, anyway?”
Elizabeth took a deep breath to calm her annoyance. Darcy had been carping and complaining like a child all evening; no, he was worse than a child. “For the third time you are Henry II and I am Eleanor of Aquitaine. If you like give me a quill and I can jot that on parchment for you.” She turned regally and left the room before his mind registered the insult.
“I remembered! Don’t think I did not remember, Elizabeth! I just dislike Henry II; I should prefer to be Henry V.”
“But I want to be Eleanor!” Her voice becoming shrill she spoke with the finality of hostess of Pemberley then closed the door on him. Of course he had to give in to her; house parties were far removed from his area of expertise. His experise was more in line with estate management, riding, hunting and playing fug football.
Just then there was a banging on their dressing room doors.
“Go away you big ox.”
“Darcy, quit pouting, it’s unmanly. You’re behaving badly because I am Lord of Misrule again and you’re not.” Try as he might Fitzwilliam could not keep the taunting tone from his voice. Truth was, he did not try overly hard.
Darcy opened the door and stared at his cousin’s outlandish costume – a long, brown, woolen, sackcloth type robe with green garland around his neck and a wreath of holly about his head. “Gad, and don’t you look like a fat spruce. Dare I hope you are wearing something under that hideous cloak?”
“Oh be quiet. You’re still not Lord of Misrule and I am.” Fitzwilliam stuck out his foot to show his raggedy stockings. “Besides being unanimously selected by the family, I am older than you – it is my right.”
“Put that smelly thing down.
“No, what’s your point?”
“Nothing too strenuous for you this year, brat. Love the crown by the way. Who are you supposed to be this evening, Catherine of Aragon? Honest mistake – sorry. No need to get into a snit. All right, tonight we shall eat and dance and then drink and dance, the usual Saturnalia celebration. Then at midnight I will sacrifice my body and take my good wife up to bed but you must remain and entertain your neighbors and the boring town officials until they drop over.
“That cannot be all, surely. No inappropriately bawdy play this year? No humiliating feats of strength? No embarrassing solo singing?”
“Darcy, my dear friend, I find it not as much fun to taunt you as it was when we were younger, strange as that may sound to your jaded ears. I have mellowed with maturity, my friend. I find it astounding that the older we are becoming the more I admire you Darcy – tremendously really – and have no need any longer for engaging in such childish behavior.”
They stared quietly at each other for several moments.
“Your wife has forbidden you to humiliate me this year, hasn’t she?”
“Stopped all my plans cold, let go the men I hired to dress up as women to grope and kiss you and removed the nails I had placed on your chair.”
“I grow to love that woman more and more each year.”
“As do I.” Grabbing a handful of cookies from a tray, Fitzwilliam resettled his crown of holly. “Feeling better, cousin?”
“Merry Christmas yourself, Darcy.