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ITS DERIVATION. 31
variety of inhabitants—horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and donkeys. The ponds are unfrozen, except when some melancholy piece of melting ice floats sullenly on the water; and cackling geese and gabbling ducks have replaced the sliders and skaters. The avenue is chill and dark, the hedges are dripping, the lanes knee-deep, and all nature is in a state of dissolution and thaw."
For the reader curious in antiquarian lore, we make some gleanings from Mr. Soane's learned and singular work, the " New Curiosities of Literature."
January takes its name from the Latin Januarius, which itself was derived from Janus, the two-faced God, who looked both before and behind, and hence was chosen by Numa as typifying the New Year, that stood between the past and the future, and might thus be said to look both ways at once. Prior to the time of this monarch the Roman year had but ten months, and commenced with March; but he added January and February, making it begin with January, though the months still retained their old numerical designations, as if no change had taken place in the Roman calendar.
It may seem strange that Romulus should have made the year begin with winter, and not with spring. Ovid has given an ingenious, though perhaps not a very satisfactory explanation, through the mouth of his God, Janus:—" The Winter Solstice is the first of the new sun, and the last of the old; the year and the sun have the same origin." It may be permitted to us to doubt whether the office, which Ovid himself has assigned to Janus, would not better account for his being placed at the head of the months; he was the door-keeper of heaven and earth. Jupiter himself could not go in or out unless he opened the door for him, and thus he seems naturally enough to have been the porter, opening the gates of time to the New Year. Plutarch, however, has adduced other reasons. He firsts suggests that Numa, who was a lover of peace and its attendant arts, might have dedicated the beginning of the year to Janus, as being a God more favourable to civil institutions and the cultivation of the soil than to war; at the same time he is more inclined to believe Numa made this choice from the fact that the sun, having completed his advance and now retrograding, there is also a certain change in nature, the nights being diminished in duration and the days increased.
If it be difficult to choose amongst these reasons, it seems yet harder to say why the Christians should have chosen this month in the early ages as the commencement of their year. Baronius,in his Marty,rology,supposes that they did so because about this time Christ was born, and by his rising illuminated as it were the world, till then obscured by darkness.
But though in the first instance the Roman mode of computation prevailed, yet this was far from being fixed or general. The New Tear has at different times and places commenced on Christmas Day, i.e., the 25th of December; on the Day of the Circumcision, i.e., the 1st of January; on the Day of the Conception, i.e., the 25th of March; and on Easter Day, or the day of the Resurrection; nor was it till a comparatively recent period that a general rule was adopted.
By the Anglo-Saxons this month was named Wolfmonat, and Aefter-Yula. The first of these names it received "because people are wont always in that month to be in more danger to be devoured of wolves than in any season else of the year; for that through the extremity of cold and snow these ravenous creatures could not find of other beasts sufficient to feed upon." It was called, Aefter-Yula, as being immediately after, or second to, Christmas.
Cieottmcision; New Teae's Day.—January 1st.— New Tear's Day has in all ages, and among all people, been a time of rejoicing. Libanius, the rhetorician, has left us a vivid account of the manner in which it was celebrated among the Romans, and as the greater part of our New Tear's customs have come to us from that source, a brief epitome of his amusing pages will scarcely be thought irrelevant to our present purpose.
He sets out with informing us that all men love holidays, an assertion which few will be inclined to dispute; and then adds, that there are four kinds of festivals—the first, peculiar to families, the second, to cities; the third, to nations; and a fourth, common to all the people living under the Roman empire, and which takes place when the old year has ended, and the new one has begun. On the
NEW TEAR FESTIVAL. 33
day before the calends the whole city was in a fever of expectation, and as the evening advanced a jubilee prevailed among all classes, the forum being crowded with people. Presents too of all kinds might be seen passing to and fro in every quarter of the city, some for ornament, and others for the table; some from the rich to the poor, and others from the poor to the rich ; some amongst the wealthy classes, and others in like manner among those who had little to give, but who loved the old custom too well to let it pass by unhonoured.
But this merry-making by day would seem to have been little more than a prologue, though a very jovial one, to the revel that followed sunset. Deep in the night all was song and dance, laugh and jest, both in the streets and at home; no one thought of sleeping: or, if any drowsy folks were so inclined to offend against the laws of good fellowship, they were quickly taught that the liberty of rest and quiet was the only liberty not allowed at such a season. The obstreperous revellers would knock long and loudly at their doors; and, the more angry they were, the greater was the delight of their tormentors as well as of the casual passers-by, who thought the joke much too good to be interrupted.
It is probable that these previous, or introductory, festivities were not capable of much augmentation, yet still it was with day-break that the real business of the season may be said to have commenced. The columns and porches of the houses were wreathed with laurel or other green branches, and troops of gay companions might be seen, clad for the most part in purple, and bearing small torches, who accompanied with acclamations some rich man on horseback to the shrines and temples. Servants followed and scattered gold amongst the people, so that a constant scramble was kept up, to the great amusement of all parties.
Having performed the usual sacrifices to the gods, they then went round to the magistrates, and bestowed New Year's gifts upon their servants. But this was all done openly, the money passing through the hands of those in office to their subordinates, and the former kissing the person to whom he presented the intended gift. Others
imitated this example; gold flowed about freely on all sides; and the revelry in consequence soon reached its height, for at a time like this there were few hoarders amongst any class. So ended the first day.
On the second day the festival assumed another character. There was now no more exchanging of gifts, people for the most part remaining at home, while masters and servants played promiscuously at dice and cockal, all ranks being levelled for the season; and, what perhaps the latter valued as a higher privilege, they might be drunk or lazy without the slightest fear of punishment.
On the third day were the chariot-races, which produced an agreeable variety not only by the courses themselves, but by the disputes to which they gave rise. The hippodrome was crowded, and in it, for the greater convenience of the people, were baths and dice-tables, so that night as well as day was passed in riot.
The fourth day somewhat diminished the excesses of the festival, though even the fifth did not quite put an end to them; people still continued lingering about the flesh-pots of Egypt, and it was only slowly and reluctantly that they at length returned to their usual occupation.
This is the substance of what has been recorded by Libanius; and it is useful to be borne in mind, the New Tear festival of the Romans being unquestionably the origin of the same festival among the early Christians. That it was imported into Britain with the new religion seems highly probable; but at the same time we must not forget that the Mithraic worship of the Hindoos had a kindred ceremony in the huli, though at a different season, and that there was an undeniable connection between Druidism and the creed of Mithra. It is possible, therefore, that at least a part of these festal customs may have existed in Britain, together with Druidism, long before the introduction of Christianity among us, though it would be put down by the Romans to the utmost of their power upon their invasion of the island. From political motives they sought to extirpate the Druids, and abolish everything that could serve to keep the people in mind of them; for in the ruling religion they found the most determined obstacle to all their views of conquest.
Whencesoever derived, these customs gave great offence to the early Fathers of the Church as Christianity became more firmly established and they felt themselves in a position to dictate. But though to make the heathens abandon their gods was comparatively speaking an easy matter, it seems to have been a very different thing when in the sour and jealous spirit of fanaticism they took up arms against the popular amusements. They then found the people much more zealous for their pleasures than they had been for their deities. They persisted however; denouncing all such observances in their sermons, and prohibiting them by their canons, under penalty of expulsion from the bosom of the Church. With more zeal than discretion they forbade the decorating of houses with laurel, and made it a capital sin for men to masquerade in female attire, or for women to assume the dress of men. Nay, even the cantilene e and the commessationes—the public carolling and feasting—were put under the ban ecclesiastic; and to make their point yet more sure, the zealous fathers ordained the observance of a fast. For the same reason the strenae, or New Year's gifts, were forbidden by the Council of Auxerre in 614, which stigmatised them as diabolical; but though these prohibitions do not appear to have done much good at the time, yet they have taught us many customs of which we otherwise should most probably have known little or nothing.
At one time the custom of New Year's gifts prevailed amongst all classes in this country, even the sovereigns both giving and receiving them, though of course their practice was more generally in the latter way. Nichols has given a curious as well as extensive list of gifts presented to Queen Elizabeth, from which it may be as well to transcribe a few items only by way of specimen—" Money (sometimes to the amount of twenty pounds), diamonds, pearls, petticoats, smocks, garters, fans, pots of preserves, marchpanes, and sweet waters. The loyal donors of these commodities were archbishops, bishops, peers, peeresses, doctors, cooks, and even dustmen, a gentleman of the last-named occupation having presented her Majesty with 'two boltes of Cambrick.'" The practice may be traced back to the time of Henry the Fourth, but the only remains now at court are that "th.a