Some of you, if you are in my age bracket, might remember New Year's Eve in days of old, when the matriarch of the family ensured that everyone - and that included both the matriarch herself and her beloved patriarch - had been bathed, hair washed, clean jammies and dressing gowns (for the children) put on, or laid out to be put on (for the parents); all beds had had their sheets and pillowcases changed, and this linen had been washed and hung out on a washing line to dry! Of course, it was a real blessing if it was a dry windy day to help ensure that the laundry would be dry enough to be ironed. If not, at least it was washed, popped through the wringer to ensure as much water as possible was squeezed out, and then hung to dry in a warm kitchen, in the hope that it just might be dry enough to be ironed later on! Washing machines were not normal items in the households of most of us - and tended to be in the homes of the gentry....very rich people who had servants to do their bidding, something we knew little about, apart from listening to tales of such folk on the radio.
Then the cupboards were checked: tidy and clean - check; well stocked
with the essentials of bread, milk, breakfast cereal etc. - check; there
was freshly baked shortbread in the shortbread tin - check; there was still plenty of home-baked Christmas cake left so that first-footers could be given a slice - check; there was enough whisky and sherry in the (now unlocked) drinks cabinet to allow drinks to be poured for visitors - check; there was enough coal in the scuttle to ensure that the fire would be well banked up, with pieces left over for themselves to take when going "first footing" - check; there was plenty of milk and juice for the children who were old enough to be allowed to stay up till "the Bells!" - check. Christmas decorations, of course, were still up - in those days coloured paper streamers hung from the centre light to the corners of the main room, and if you had a Christmas tree, it would be in the window where all passers by could admire it! Also, on New Year's Eve, Christmas cards which had been received from nearby neighbours were popped to the front of the ones adorning perhaps the top of the piano, or the top of the bookcase, or even the sideboard, so that said neighbours had the satisfaction of knowing(!) how important they were!!
As children, this was all very very exciting to us! Television was still
in its infancy, and our home did not have such an expensive piece of
equipment as yet. As children, again we weren't all that happy about
having to have a bath in the early evening and have our hair washed,
particularly if it was not our "bath night" (as in days gone by, there were no such inventions as the immersion heater, and water was heated by the "back boiler" right behind the front room fireplace). But, it was exciting being allowed to stay up and be with the grown-ups as they sat round the fire, sipping whisky or sherry, and getting rosy-cheeked from the warm fire and the unaccustomed drink!!
Then, on New Year's Day itself, there was a special family dinner, sometimes with other family members visiting. In our house, my Dad had taught us kids to play the card game "Canasta", and we had dried peas with which to "bet"! No thought was given to anyone turning to a life of betting - it was just a bit of fun! We enjoyed a lovely home cooked dinner, the down-side being that the kids had to wash up, and cleaning the pots was not our idea of a great evening's entertainment!! But, as always, it got done, and when we settled down to play cards with Mum and Dad, it was exciting!! My twin brother usually got too excited, and if we played any game where the loser dropped out until there was only one player left (usually Dad, as he had a good head for cards), he wasn't over-happy about that, and tended to sneak into the kitchen where Mum had a tin of sweets she had amassed over the last couple of months of the year from the ration of sweets which we
were all allowed! Can you imagine being excited about getting a few blocks of chocolate all to yourself!
Then, there were the New Year's Resolutions! My oh my, they were fun! The parents never divulged what (if any) New Year's Resolutions they had made, but the three of us were asked, and we had to think up some area of our behaviour which ought to be corrected, and was reasonably easy to do, like "Always wash my hands and face before going to bed!" or "Remember to put the empty milk bottled out at the front door at night!" and so on. We would have been on holiday from school since Christmas Eve, and would not be going back until at least the 2nd of January if that happened to be a school day, and had probably got over the excitement of new toys, new jammies (not exactly thrilling!), new books (probably by now read from cover to cover), and new jigsaws - usually a family favourite too, as we could all indulge in this pastime.
So New Year, in days of old, was quite different from to-day;
"first-footing" particularly for the Mums went on for quite a while into
January as they took turns going round the neighbours whom they had not seen, taking in little gifts of a piece of coal and something edible -
usually some cake or shortbread! And, it was great fun!! Perhaps just a wee bit different from what we do to-day! What do you think???????