Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Colin's Little Known Facts: Strange New Year Customs

As we’re coming up for New Year’s Eve, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at a few customs and beliefs relating to this auspicious occasion.

Several places have surviving fire customs, designed to ritually burn out the Old Year.

At Allendale in Northumberland, the Guisers march through the village with half-barrels of blazing tar on their heads. At the end of the march, the barrels are thrown into a giant bonfire.

At Stonehaven in Scotland, fireballs made of wood, cloth and paraffin are whirled around the marchers’ heads, after which the fireballs are hurled into the sea.

Similar goings-on happen at Biggar and Comrie, also in Scotland.

In various parts of the country it was customary until about a hundred years ago to dress up as bulls, goats or deer, in tribute to the horned Celtic god, Cernunnos.

But probably the most common tradition still followed today is the New Year Resolution. Do you make them? Do you keep them?