SweGGate Culture Trad: New Year


Highlights of the year


New Year

by Dr Fredrik Haeffner

You may like to read my "Historical Notes on Calendars"

Many popular beliefs have been associated with the turn of the year in the old times and a quite a few of these deal in predicting what will happen in the coming year.

Årsgång ("Walking the year")

If you would want to see what the new year has in store for you. Årsgång is one of them. Here is how to do it:

On the New Year's Eve, late in the evening, you go to a church, preferably in your own parish. Walk around the church (outside) three times and each time you pass the church door you should blow a puff through the keyhole.
During your walk you must watch out for the hideous Glogalten or Glosugga (a pig). Should you meet it you must keep your legs close together to prevent the pig from running between them. If the pig managed to run between your legs you would be split in two halves by the razor-sharp back hairs of the pig.
After blowing for the third time (after the third and last walk) in the keyhole you should also take care not to be caught by an evil spirit that may appear from the keyhole.
The reward for this daring walk is rich. During your walk home (going by car is probably no good) you will see pictures of all the important events of the coming year, such as births, christenings, funerals and harvest feasts.

In some parts of Sweden this custom has been practiced on other occasions as well (on Öland on Christmas or Easter)
Several church wardens have reported that even today they have seen people doing the Årsgång so maybe it works for some people ??
This also created some problems for the church wardens since all the hot, humid air blown into the doorlock froze inside blocking the lock.

Blystöpning = lead casting and
"att spå i kaffesump" = telling fortune from used coffee-grounds

Another method to predict the future is to melt a piece of lead, pour it into cold water and to interprete the form of the lump created. This custom was particularly popular on New Year's Eve but may be practiced at any time, for instance at the birth of a child.

To extend your knowledge about the future you can of course also try to see the pattern of the coffee-grounds. This is possible only if you make your coffee the "old" way, kokekaffe, i.e. boiling coffee where you have the ground beans still in the water when you serve the coffee. When you have just a little coffee left in the cup turn it upside-down on the saucer and read the pattern that comes up.
Tea drinking countries use tea-leaves instead to obtain the same information.

Predicting the character of your future husband

An unmarried girl can find out something about her future husband by placing three glasses on her bedside table. One glass filled with plain water, one with wine and one with brännvin (schnapps, vodka-like alcohol).
In the morning she may find one glass empty and can interpret it thus:
The water glass emptied will bring her a poor or greedy man
The wine glass was emptied by a "fine" man (good-mannered and rich)
Should it be the glass with brännvin then the man would be a drunkard.

Even better: Find out who he will be !

A girl can niga tre gånger inför nyårsnyet = curtsy three times to the new moon saying
"vems skjorta ska jag sy, vems kaka ska jag baka, vems maka ska jag bli ?"
("whose shirt will I sew, whose cake shall I bake, whose wife will I be ?")
Her inner eye will then see a picture of the future husband.

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Last updated by F Hae 2005-05-04 11:06 © Fredrik Haeffner, 2001-4