Blein Noa Feer-Vie Erriu! Happy New Year!

Fastyr mie!

I’m writing today from Santee, South Carolina, where I’m stopping for the night on my way back to Alexandria, Va.

Manx Mum should be arriving home shortly, and I’ll be handing control of the blog back to her, but first I wanted to share some New Year’s traditions with you, and give you my best wishes for 2010.

New Year’s Day – Laa Nollick Beg, or “Little Christmas Day” – is a very important day on the Manx calendar. What happened to you on New Year’s Day could determine your luck for the entire year to come.

Most important to your future luck was the Qualtagh – the “First Footer” – the first person either to visit your home or the first person you met leaving your home on New Year’s Day.

If a dark-haired man were the first visitor of the year, that was a sign of coming good luck. A fair-haired person, not so lucky, and a red-head … well, enough said.

It was considered more lucky to have a man be the Qualtagh than a woman. The first footer should bring a gift – to arrive empty handed at a house on New Year’s was considered highly unlucky for the hosts, let alone inconsiderate.

Meeting a cat first thing that day was also unlucky – that’s tough on me, as I live with two of them. Dust was swept from the floor to the hearth, to prevent the luck of the household from leaving for the year. And nothing was lent.

In the evening on New Year’s Day, groups of young men would travel from house to house, much as in Gaelic Scotland on Oidhche Challuinn, New Year’s Eve, reciting rhymes and singing and probably sharing a bit of New Year’s cheer with their neighbors.

Here’s one version of their rhyme:

Nollick ghennal erriu, as blein feer vie;
Seihll as slaynt da’n slane lught thie;
Bea as gennallys eu bioyr ry-cheilley,
Shee as graih eddyr mraane as deiney;
Cooil as cowryn stock as stoyr.
Palchey puddase, as skeddan dy-liooar;
Arran as caashey, eeym as roauyr;
Baase myr lugh ayns ullin ny soalt,
Cadley sauchey tra vees shiu ny lhie,
Gyn feeackle y jiargan, cadley dy mie.

“A merry Christmas, and a very good year to you;
Luck and health to the whole household,
Life, pleasantness and sprightliness to you together,
Peace and love between men and women;
Goods and riches, stock and store.
Plenty of potatoes and herring enough;
Bread and cheese, butter and beef. 1
Sleeping safely when you are in bed,
Undisturbed by the flea’s tooth, sleeping well.”

Another version I’ve seen ends “As feeackle y jiargan, nagh bee dy mie!” – “And may the flea’s tooth not be good!”

When you’re toasting the New Year tomorrow night, you may want to say: “Slaynt vie!”

That’s “Good Health!” pronounced “slench vye” and it’s the Manx equivalent of the Irish “sláinte!” – let’s make it as popular across North America.

Sonnys erriu, as Blein Noa Feer Vie!
Good Luck to you all, and a very Good New Year!

— Illiam