Cornish New Year Traditions

There are several Cornish New Year traditions worthy of note, first of the sanding of front door steps was a common feature of New Year’s day, as was the almost worldwide custom of staying up to see the New Year in.  Sanding the front door step is similar in many ways to the tradition of “First Footing” marking a line to cross for the first honoured visitor of the year, whose character would dictate the fortunes of the year ahead.

There was also the rather cryptic St Tibb’s Eve:

There is one saint whose name is familiar to all in Cornwall, but whose sex is unknown. This saint has much to answer for; promises made, but never intended to be kept, are all to be fulfilled on next St. Tibb’s-eve, a day that some folks say “falls between the old and the new year”; others describe it as one that comes “neither before nor after Christmas.” 

Parties are general in Cornwall on New Year’s-eve to watch in the New Year and wish friends health and happiness; but I know of no peculiar customs, except that before retiring to rest the old women opened their Bibles at hap-hazard to find out their luck for the coming year. The text upon which the fore-finger of the right hand rested was supposed to foretell the future. And money, generally a piece of silver, was placed on the threshold, to be brought in the first thing on the following day, that there might be no lack of it for the year. Nothing was ever lent on New Year’s -day, as little as possible taken out, but all that could be brought into the house. “I have even known the dust of the floor swept inwards.”