Pridie Kalendas January
Modern Date : December 31st
Pridie Kalendas January
Day Before the Kalends of January
This is one of the dies comitiales when committees of citizens could vote on political or criminal matters.
Festival of Saturn
The two-day Festival of Saturn, on the last day of the Old Year and the first day of the next, is among the most important points in the Roman ritual calendar. This first day is devoted to the double figure of Father Time. He is usually perceived as the pale death figure in a black robe, with a scythe. This is Saturn the Reaper, the Shiva and Set counterpart who clears away through old age, sickness and death -- and separation in the heart -- the old, spent energies that are due to fade. His other aspect, shown here, is Saturn the Keeper of Prophecy and Teacher of Esoteric Spiritual Wisdom, who holds within his lantern the Light Hologram that organizes all Knowledge.
In Egypt, this was known as the Lucky Day of Sekhmet. Sekhmet was a goddess of the Memphis triad, sometimes shown as a lion-headed woman. Sekhmet was prayed to by mothers who wished to nurse their children, as in the following incantation: O thou who lives on the water, hasten to the Judge in his divine abode, to Sekhmet who walks behind him, and to Isis, ruler of Dep, saying, "bring her this milk."
The emperor Commodus was poisoned and strangled this day at Rome in 192 AD, the day before he was to fight in a gladiatorial game. He was 31.
Although the Roman year began on March 1st, this day commenced the solar year and Roman calendars all indicate it as such.
This day continues the Halcyon days, or the period of celebration and goodwill associated with the beginning of winter and the new solar year.
This day has been identified by some as the day the island Thia came into being in the Aegean Sea in 46 AD via volcanic activity.
On this day Quintus Fabius Maximus died of no apparent cause in the year of his consulship. In his place Gaius Rebilus held the office for only a few hours.
On this day in 406 AD, hordes of barbarians crossed the frozen Rhine unopposed, and the frontier collapsed once and for all.
Decima, the middle Fate in charge of the present, presides over December, but the month may have received its name as the tenth month of the Roman calendar. Vesta, patroness of fire also laid claim to the month of December.
New Year’s Eve
In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is called Hogmanay, Hogmannay, Hogmarmay, Hogmena, Hagmena, or Hogg-night. It honors the solar god Hogmagog. As Gogmagog, he is the chalk figure carved into the earth at Wandlebury near Cambridge. Divided into two giants, Gog and Magog, he is the spiritual guardian of London. The original name of the Scottish New Year was Hagmenai, "Moon of the Hag." It honored the goddess of winter who mourned her lost mate.
Hogmanay is also called “Cake-day” for the gift of an oatmeal cake, or its equivalent, which is expected by children on this day. It is still the custom in parts of Scotland to “trick-or-treat” from door to door, asking in rude rhymes for cakes or money. In the lowlands or Scotland, these Yule-cakes are also called Nur-cakes. Nour means birth, and therefore, Nur-cakes are birthcakes heralding in the New Year. Also from this word, comes the word Norn, as the Norns were appointers of all destinies at birth, and Nor refers to a “child.”
Bonfires are lit, blazing tar barrels are rolled down hills, and fiery torches are tossed about. Hogmanays, smoking sticks, are used to ward off evil spirits. Traditional treats are bannocks, oarsmen, shortbread, black buns, and ankersocks (gingerbread-rye cakes).
At the moment the New Year arrives, doors and windows are opened to let out the old year. In Wales, this is done to drive out the Cwn Annwn, the black dogs of the underworld who pass through at that time.
Divination of the future was common on New Year's Eve, especially, forecasting weather conditions for following year. Almost anything which occurred on New Year's Eve or Day might be indicative of the future, and the nearer to the midnight hour, the more significant was the event.
The Fair Folk are quite active at this time. All along the Pyrenean range, supernatural power is attributed to the fairies called Hados (Spanish) and Fees (French). Offerings are left of thick milk and white bread. If they are not satisfied, wolves will devour the flocks. According to Welsh mythology, the Spirit of the Van is a sort of fairy, haunting the Van Pools in the mountains of Carmarthen on New Year's Eve. She is dressed in white with a golden girdle. Her long hair is also golden, and she sits in a golden boat with a golden oar.
During the Hestiad in honor of Hestia or Vesta, the house is blessed. The Pentacle is made in the four corners of each room, and Ivy is hung on the outer doors to protect the house against evil through the coming year.
In Japan, straw clad young men called Namahage descend to the villages of the Oga Peninsula. They represent spirits attempting to drive out misfortune and ensure a good harvest. They storm from house to house seeking naughty children, single women, and lazy young brides. The householders appease them with sake and give them gifts off money and rice cakes.
New Year's eve night wind blows South,
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If West, much milk and fish in the sea,
If North, much cold and storms there will be;
If East, the trees will bear much fruit;
If North-east, flee it, man and brute.
Out with the old and in with the new. Before midnight, sweep and clean your house and take out all the trash because you don't want to sweep tomorrow (you will sweep the good luck away) or take anything out of the house (you only want to bring new things in to insure abundance during the coming year). Be sure you finish any work you have in hand for a task carried over will never prosper.
Everything you do on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is fraught with significance. The American custom of spending the night with the one you love and kissing them at midnight insures that the relationship will flourish during the coming year. In Vienna, the pig is the symbol of good luck. Pigs are let loose in restaurants and everyone tries to touch it as it runs by for luck. In private homes, a marzipan pig, with a gold piece in its mouth, is suspended from a ribbon and touched instead. In Sarasota Springs, New York, it's a peppermint pig that brings good luck and good health for the coming year. The pig is cracked with a hammer after a holiday meal and shared among the guests.
In Italy, you have to watch out for falling objects on New Year's Eve, as people shove their old sofas, chairs and even refrigerators out of the windows of their apartments on New Year's Eve. In Greece, it's customary to throw a pomegranate wrapped in silver foil on the threshold, to spread the seeds of good luck for an abundant year.
The first person to cross your threshold after midnight brings luck into the house. In medieval Britain, the best possible first-footer was a tall dark-haired handsome man, who brought gifts of whisky, bread, a piece of coal or firewood and a silver coin. He entered in silence and no one spoke to him until he put the coal on the fire, poured a glass for the head of the house and wished everyone a Happy New Year.
One popular method of divination, used to determine your future in the new year, is to prick a newly-laid egg at the smaller end with a pin, and let three drops of the egg white fall into a bowl of water. Interpret the designs it makes to get a glimpse of what will happen to you in the new year.
Pagan Twelfth Night
In the ancient Asatru tradition of the Celtic and Norse peoples, this day is the famous Twelfth Night, the last of the 12 days of Yule, which began on Dec. 20, Mother Night. There is one more night of celebration now before Yule decorations come down, and the Yule tree and other holiday greenery are removed from the home, on the next day. It's customary to burn the old greenery, to symbolize the end of the old year, though each household keeps a sprig of holly, ivy or mistletoe for good luck until the next yule season.