New Year’s Eve

New Year’s was a more significant celebration than Christmas in the North East. The whole family gathered at Gran’s house in Harrison Street close to midnight on New Year’s Eve to see in the New Year. The New Year had to be ‘let in’ by someone, preferably a dark-haired man, just after the stroke of twelve. As they came through the door, they presented the lady of the house with a symbolic lump of coal, the North of England version of the

Yule log. In later years, everyone came home from whatever celebrations they were attending to see in the New Year with their own family.

Grandad was always the ‘First Foot’, even though his hair was white as snow. He would leave the house a few minutes to twelve and keep everyone waiting what seemed ages after midnight had struck before he knocked loudly on the locked door.

“Who is it!?”  Gran shouted through the closed door.

“It’s the Lucky Bird,” was the reply. “Old Year out, New Year in, please will you let the lucky bird in.”

The door was opened, but before he entered, being pretty ‘well oiled’, Jim sang the chorus of his traditional New Year’s song, The Miner’s Dream of Home. Everyone had to be greeted by the ‘First Foot’ before wishing each other Happy New Year!

In later years when Dad ‘let in’ the New Year, I was allowed to accompany him. We wandered up and down the street with all the other ‘First Footers’, waiting for the bell of the church clock to chime the midnight hour. It was a very special time.

The Miner’s Dream of Home’ 1892
Last night as I slumbered I had a strange dream
I saw England’s valleys and dells
I listened with joy, as I did when a boy
To the sound of the old village bell
The log was burning brightly
‘Twas a night that should banish all sin
As the bells were ringing the Old Year out
And the New Year in

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