By Verdun Ball
Falling on January 6th, or old Christmas Day, Twelfth Night is the last day of the Christmas season. On Twelfth Night, all Christmas decorations should be taken down. If not, bad luck will follow in the new year.
On Twelfth Night, decorations such as mistletoe and holly should be burned, not thrown out. However, to bring good luck to you and your household in the new year, it’s best to keep a sprig of holly, ivy and mistletoe in your kitchen cupboard.
On January 9th, 1814, Ulster had an extremely heavy snowfall. Stage coaches were unable to travel because of the snow, which began falling on Christmas Day.
In Co. Antrim, between Larne and Carrickfergus, drifts were an incredible 20 feet high! Lough Neagh was completely frozen over and people walked to Ram’s Island. The ice was so think on Belfast Lough that folk walked acriss it from Antrim to Down.
Long ago in Ireland, New Year’s Eve was known as Oiche na Coda Moire- the night of the big portion. Irish folk believed that eating a large supper on this night would bring plenty of food for the year ahead.
n In Co. Kildare a large barmbrack was baked on New Year’s Eve. The man of the house took three bites of it, then dashed it against the front door. Fragments were gathered up and eaten by the family.
Farmers repeated this ceremony at the door of the byre to ensure food for the cows was plentiful throughout the year. Sometimes the cake was thrown out of the doorway and was caught by a person standing there!
On New Year’s Eve, Irish countryfolk made sure that no food was taken from their house in case there wouldn’t be enough for the year ahead. Even beggars hesitated to ask for any.
When passing a graveyard on New Year’s Day a prayer was said for all who died during the year.
Young Irish girls slipped holly and ivy leaves or a sprig of mistletoe under their pillows on New Year’s eve. This ensured they’d dream of their future husbands. And before they went to sleep they whispered this rhyme:
‘Oh ivy green and holly red,
Tell me, tell me whom shall I wed?’
And babies born on New Year’s Day will grow up with good luck and prosperity on their side.