25 things you may not know about New Year and month of January...
(1) January, our coldest month, is named after the two-faced Roman god, Janus, who looks both to the future and the past.
He was traditionally the god of entrances – gates and doorways.
(2) The Anglo-Saxons knew January as Wolf Month – a time when the hungry beasts, which then roamed the countryside, were most likely to raid villages in search of food.
(3) The Ango-Saxons also believed that January 2nd was the unluckiest day of the year, especially for those born on this day.
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(4) St Hilary's day, January 13, is reputedly the coldest day of the year – in January 1205 (and in later years) the River Thames froze over and ale and wine turned to solid ice.
(5) In olden days it was the custom to open the door of the house at midnight on New Year to let the old year out and the new one in.
(6) In Scotland and the North Country it was believed that the first person to enter a house after mid-night (sometimes called the "Luck Bird") could bring you good fortune for the coming year.
An acceptable "first-footer" at Hogmanay was traditionally a tall, dark-haired male carrying a lump of coal, signifying prosperity.
A female, or fair-haired male, entering first was regarded as unlucky.
This first-footer would, hopefully, also bring gifts – a coin (prosperity) bread (enough to eat) greenery (for a long life) or whisky.
A popular Scottish first footing drink was the "Het Pint" – a combination of beer, whisky, sugar and eggs.
The visitor would take away the ashes from the fire – a symbol of the old year – allowing a new one to be lit.
(7) In other areas good luck was ensured by finding a carol singer (or indeed, any "outsider") and then leading them through the house.
(8) It's unlucky to give credit, or to cause someone to be in your debt, at New Year.
(9) The first water drawn from the well – known as the " Cream" of "Flower" – at New Year would bring wealth and happiness to the household.
The is magical water, it's said, would remain pure and untainted all year and could be sprinkled around the house for good luck.
(10) Traditionally sung as the clock (or Big Ben) strikes mid-night at New Year "Auld Lang Syne" was written by Scotsman Robert Burns in 1788.
Loosely translated it means, "for (the sake of) old times".
(11) Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Night, marked the resumption of farm work after the Christmas and New Year break.
In some areas the labourers would tour villages with their plough, singing, dancing and performing mumming plays while asking for money
Blacking their faces with soot so that they could not be identified they ploughed up the gardens of those unwilling to make a contribution
(12) It's considered unlucky to leave trees or greenery hanging in the home after Twelfth Night, which concludes the traditional 12 days of Christmas.
In olden times the night, which ended in a feast, marked the end of a winter festival that had started at Halloween.
Presided over by a Lord of Misrule (a character who dates back to Roman times and their Festival of Saturnalia) the high born would exchange places with the peasants, and vice versa.
(13) The king and queen of the festivities were the lucky couple who had, by chance, received a bean and a pea in a slice of special Twelfth Night plum cake.
(14) A traditional New Year's drink in times past was "Lamb's-wool" – a nourishing mixture of sugar, nutmeg, ginger and ale.
(15) Wassailing – a winter celebration of the cider orchards – still takes place in mid-January at numerous West Country locations.
In olden times the celebrations, seen as bringing good luck and prosperity throughout the coming year, involved bees as well as trees and farm animals.
(16) In Scotland children and servants would receive a small gift, or handsel, on the first Monday in January.
(17) January 20, St Agnes's Eve, was the day when unmarried girls, or spinsters, would try to conjure up dream images of their future spouses.
Tricks included abstaining from food and drink, walking backwards up the stairs, or eating cake before lying down to sleep.
(18) Evil and diseases could be prevented from entering the house at New Year, it was once believed, by twisting hawthorn into a globe shape, showering it with cider and hanging it up in the kitchen for 12 months.
(19) It's said that the first three days of the New Year would reflect the prevailing weather conditions over the next three months.
(20) The Glastonbury Thorn is said to flower on old Christmas Eve, January 5th.
The calendar was changed by 11 days in 1752. Before this time Twelfth Night (known as Old Yule) was on January 16th.
(21) In Somerset horses were allowed Old Christmas Day off as a holiday, finding favourite tit-bits in their feeding troughs.
(22) New Year's Day was declared a public holiday in 1974
(23) It was considered unlucky to do washing on New Year's day but lucky to wear new clothes with money in the pockets
It was also unlucky to let your fire go out on this day
(24) Other New Year celebrations, Scandinavian in origin, include carrying fire barrels and lighting bonfires.
(25) In London the New Year celebrations, including carol singing, traditionally took place outside St Paul's cathedral.
The venue was only moved to Trafalgar Square after the Second World War.