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Scarecrow Burning


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In Yorkshire tradition there's an unexpected appearance of furry creatures at New Year. Just as the clock is about to strike midnight on New Year's Eve, the legend goes that you should say "black rabbits, black rabbits, black rabbits". And then, as the clock chimes 12, say "white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits". This is said to bring good luck.

In Scotland New Year is passionately welcomed with "Hogmanay" - celebrations that start on 31 December and can go on for another two days. No-one knows for sure when Hogmanay first started but it's believed the celebrations became really popular when the Vikings invaded Scotland and fires were lit to keep away evil spirits and to celebrate the winter solstice.

These days fire festivals and fireworks play a big part in Scottish celebrations - the idea is that fire, like the Sun, purifies and destroys evil spirits.

In Wales, "calennig" means New Year's gift, and according to tradition, children would call from door to door bearing good wishes for the year to come. This was symbolised by skewered apples, stuck with cloves and sprigs of evergreen, which they carried in their hands. This becomes a decoration and is considered a symbol of luck for the home. Children would sing and receive small gifts of food or money for their troubles.

In some South American countries like Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil, your fortunes for the year ahead are all decided by your underpants! People who want to find love wear red underwear for New Year, whilst people who want to get rich should go for yellow, which it's believed brings wealth and luck. If you'd like a bit of peace and quiet for the New Year, then white pants is the way to go.

This sounds a bit like the Scottish fire celebrations we mentioned earlier - to banish any ill fortune or bad things that happened in the past year, people in Ecuador in South America set fire to scarecrows filled with paper at midnight on New Year's Eve.

They also burn photographs of things that represent the past year as a way of putting the past to one side and looking forward.