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Medieval European New Year Traditions

01 Jan Medieval European New Year Traditions

Throughout Europe, many New Year celebrations took place in March rather than January.

In France, there was a ‘Feast of Fools’ ceremony which took place on 1st January where the lower orders would indulge in drinking and gambling.

In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year’s Day since it was considered to bring good luck in the year ahead.

In Scotland and Ireland, the first person to enter the house after midnight was incredibly important. Some people believed a light haired person would bring good luck, for others, it had to be a dark complexioned man or boy. If a red headed person entered the house this would almost certainly lead to a year’s misfortune and bad luck.

In Ireland, people banged on the walls and doors of their home to scare away any evil spirits; candles were lit in windows and doors were left unlocked to welcome the spirits of deceased family members who had died in the previous twelve months.

In Poland, on New Year’s Day, bread was baked with a ring or cross hidden inside; if the lucky recipient found a ring, it would herald marriage, if they found a cross, it would mean a life in the clergy lay ahead.

More details are available on the Medievalists website; all of the information for this post can be found on the link below.

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