Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year - Victorian Style

With New Year's almost upon us, I wondered about the origins of our present customs and how our Victorian ancestors celebrated the turning of the year.

The custom of celebrating the new year on January 1 goes back to Roman times, when the calendar was standardized under Julius Ceasar. The name of the month January is after the Roman god Janus, a god with two faces looking in opposite directions, the guardian of doorways. The coming year being depicted as a new baby and the past year an old man, goes all the way back to Ancient Greece, with the baby being the reborn god Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry. Effigies of the old year were burnt, noise was made at midnight to scare away spirits of the old year, and a figure of the new years baby was paraded around in celebration. In later Christian times the Church first tried to get rid of these revelries, but then absorbed them changing the baby to the Christ child.

In Medieval times there was a custom of gift giving on New Years in some parts of Europe. In England gifts would be given to the king, and he would give gifts to loyal servants. The wealthy would also give gifts to their servants on this day.

Many of the Victorian practices are actually from the Scottish new years Hogmanay traditions. Queen Victoria was obsessed with all things Scottish and popularized many of the practices. Hogmanay was a bigger celebration in Scotland than Christmas, as the latter was see as too Catholic after the Protestant Reformation. Hogmanay traditions also included gift giving. It was considered good luck if the first person after midnight to cross the threshold brought gifts, traditionally buns, shortbread, coal, salt and whiskey, as the first person and what they brought,would foretell the family's fortune for the year. It was also auspicious if that person was male and dark haired (blonde foretold trouble). People took it so seriously there were complaints that women were left wandering around if caught outside after midnight, not let back in until a dark haired male got home!

Victorians also practiced gift giving on New Years of the items mentioned above. Sending cards, and gifts of gloves, oranges with cloves, nutmeg and money were all auspicious gifts. They also practiced foretelling the new year by what happened on Jan.01. It was said that what you were doing at midnight would predict the coming year. It was bad luck to be in bed as this might lead to illness. This is also where kissing your partner at midnight comes from. On New Year's Day it was bad luck to clear the hearth of ashes, as this was to be done the day before to clear out the old year. It was also bad luck to do laundry, or take fire out of the house, even in the form of a lamp or candle. It was considered important to have money in your pocket on this day or risk poverty for the coming year. Victorians also enjoyed practicing divination
on January 01, including tea leaf reading, and bibliomancy (opening a book,particularly the Bible, and reading a passage to predict the future). They were more concerned with foretelling the year than setting resolutions, which is a more modern practice.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year! What are some of your New Year's traditions?

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a fantastic new year! I'm so thankful for an eventful and wonderful 2012, and am looking forward to a new year and what it may bring. Thank you to all of you for following my little blog! I really appreciate all your views and comments. Below is my first vlog entry. It's one of my goals this coming year to do some vlogging. Don't worry, I'll still be blogging here as well. :)


Saturday, December 15, 2012

13 Small Happy Things

There is a stereotype out there that "goths are depressed". Personally I know this isn't true, as I'm not, and most goths I know aren't either. There is a tendency though, not just with us darker types, but even in the larger society to encourage cynicism and negativity. People who are happy are sometimes portrayed as stupid or naive, while those more pessimistic are thought of as more intellectual.

I personally don't buy this, as it actually takes effort to be happy and focus on the positive. I was reading recently about a psychological study where they found that those that labelled themselves as happy and those that said they were unhappy, had generally just as many good and bad events happen to them. It was which events they focused on in their lives that determined how happy or unhappy they were. (This does not refer to clinical depression, which is a serious mental health issue).
It can also be hard to be positive when bad things happen to us, or when we read of terrible events happening in the news. It is normal and natural to be saddened and angered by such things. It is important to remember in the face of such events, how precious life is, and what's really important, like friends and family. It is also important to remember the little things that make us happy.
In that spirit here is a list of 13 small things that make me happy to be alive.

1.Kittens - isn't this one adorable?

2. Narwhals - a unicorn and a whale combined! A universe that contains such a thing clearly cannot be all bad. This one is quite grumpy.

3. Classic My Little Ponies. I had this one when I was a kid. It's name was Parasol.

4. Speaking of which - parasols are pretty awesome too. I got one like this last Christmas from my lovely BF.

5. Speaking of which - Christmas in pretty amazing. One of my favourite foods at this time of year is the much maligned fruit cake. So yummy!

6. Gingerbread Lattes!

7. Snowy days - I love winter!

8. And on snowy days it's great to curl up with a good book like anything Austin or Bronte.

9. Or Harry Potter

10.Paint. I love getting new art supplies!

10. Egyptian gods - so regal and ancient.

11. I also am very inspired by Medieval art. The picture below is awesome because not only is it beautiful, but it also includes a catapult!

12. Gothic cathedrals - rib vaults and flying buttresses, oh my!

13. Tombstones with angels on them. I find them strangely comforting.

What are some of your favourite things?

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Is There A Movement Away From Goth? And A Goth-tastic 2013

Lately in some of the blogs I have been reading, some of the authors have been moving away from using the "goth" label. In some this seems to be mainly in name mostly. I think the first I read was Le Professeur Gorhique,s blog, where she found her style had evolved into a more general dark direction, including a definite gothabilly bent. You can check out her new blog Professor Z'a Cabinet of Curiosities . Another one was The Ultimate Goth Guide, which is a really wonderfully written blog about the goth subculture. The articles are thoughtful and well researched, and it helped inspire me to start blogging. I have to admit I was saddened to see the author of such an lovely goth blog , decide that she no longer identified with with subculture, at least not as much as she used to.
You can check out her new blog here, Bohemian Bloomers, which is also well written as one would expect.

Random cemetery pic.
Then I thought more about it. We all grow and change. Sometimes we grow into goth (or whatever subculture) and sometimes we grow away from it. We all need to find ourselves at times, and we all do it in different ways.
This theme has been popping up too in my everyday life - people trying to find themselves. For some it seems that they are going through a time when life is very "blah". Nothing much is happening and things they thought would bring them happiness aren't. I know for myself, the last three years have brought a lot of changes like a separation and divorce, that made me reassess who I am and rediscover myself.
This made me reconnect with my gothy self which over my early thirties I had somewhat gotten away from (though never entirely).
Reconnecting with myself and the things I loved and discovering new things has made me a lot happier and I feel like my life is getting back into alignment.

Me looking goofy
Thinking about this and inspired by the two blogs mentioned above, (and especially by Batfit, which I'm glad to see our amazing professor is continuing into 2013), I thought about doing a gothy happiness project for the new year. Small weekly things that helped me reconnect and feel generally more joyful. I thought I would call it
"Goth-tastic 2013" with weekly assignments. If people chose to participate they wouldn't have to do all of them (unless they wanted), they could just do the ones that spoke to them.
I mean we should all feel free to be ourselves and be happy whatever label we use or don't.
In this spirit I hope you will check out these new blogs and join me in having a freaky fabulous 2013. :)

A random pic of a black kitten. What could be more adorable!
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