Old Year's Night

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Old Year's Night

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:12 pm

aaa
<2009 “I would prefer it if he were with his family on Old Year’s Night.”—Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear, page 233>
Never come across New Year’s Eve referred to as Old Year’s Night. And the latter strikes me as somewhat of a downer (↓) compared with the more upbeat and cheery former. (↑)

The above story takes place in London in 1931 and I figured that the phrase was just a common alternate British expression for New Year’s Eve. However, natives may know better, but I’ll just stumble around as follows:

OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY [1582]:

OLD YEAR: The year preceding the present one (usually so called when it has recently ended). In South African usage Old Year’s Day and Old Year’s Night are modelled on Afrikaans Oujaarsdag, Oujaarsnag, Oujaarsaand (compare Dutch oudejaarsdag, oudejaarsavond).

Compounds: attributive and in the genitive. Chiefly South Africa and Caribbean. Designating the last day (or night) of the old year, and the festivities to mark this; especially in Old Year’s Day, Old Year’s Night.

[[Note: Wikipedia lists Old Year’s Night as being in use in the Caribbean and Iceland.]]
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THE HOGMANAY COMPANION: EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW AOUBT NEW YEAR’S EVE (2000) by Hugh Douglas [[Scottish author]]

New Year’s Eve – or Hogmanay as we call it – is Scotland’s own great festival. . . . Hogmanay is known by several different names. Because people went around guising for food, it was known as Cake Day, a name still alive in parts of Scotland and in north of England. . . Older folk sometimes call the last night of the year Old Year’s Night. [[Note: The word ‘Hogmanay’ is of ‘obscure origin.’]]
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Tidbit: <2007 “In pagan times, the last evening of October was old-year's night, when disembodied ghouls and spirits staged a carnival, and bonfires were set on hilltops to scare them away.”—The Telegraph (London), 30 October>
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So, since South Africa, the Caribbean, and Iceland are not likely sources for an expression used in 1931 London and environs, it seems that a reasonable guess is that Old Year’s Night came to England from Scotland. Incidentally, Jacqueline Winspear, author of my introductory quote, was born and raised in Kent (South East England). Also, since the above Hogmanay author says that older folks (circa 2000) in Scotland sometimes say Old Year’s Night, it seems likely that if the expression came to England from Scotland, it might also be an old-folks expression in the England today and in turn, possibly a current expression in 1931. For what it’s worth, a response on ask.com, said Old Year’s Night is a term in the Norfolk dialect.
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In searching the Web and newspaper archives, all the examples I came across for Old Year’s Night were in reference to the celebration in Scotland, the Caribbean, and South Africa. So, the burning question is, has anyone ever seen or heard the expression being used in the England by a native speaker?
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Ken G – July 30, 2013
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Re: Old Year's Night

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:09 pm

As you will appreciate different parts of the UK celebrate in different ways. But having said that, I have never heard of Old Year's Night.

I was brought up in Swansea in an English-speaking, Presbyterian family, consequently our celebration was not much more than saying "Happy New Year". Elsewhere in Wales Calennig was, and is still celebrated.

Sadly Ken, I cannot help you with Old Year's Night.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: Old Year's Night

Post by tony h » Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:30 pm

Title Another Year! A Tract for Old Year's Night and New Year's Morning
Author Nathaniel DIMOCK
Publisher London, 1866

The Old Year's Night
by the author of tales of the O'Hara family
in the The Athenaeum, Issues 271-322 1833

Reminiscences of a 46 years' residence in the island of St. Thomas, in the West Indes
By Johan Peter Nissen
It is the custom here, especially among the coloured persons, to celebrate the old year's night with music, dancing, singing, and in short, making a great noise.


Philadelphia (Pa.) Home for the Training in Speech of Deaf Children before They Are of School Age.
section titled: Old Year's Night
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: Old Year's Night

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:13 pm

aaa
Tony, Thanks for your search results.

The first one looks good. I wonder if Nathaniel Dimock was originally from Scotland? There’s an interesting booboo which has the preface to his On Eucharistic Worship in the English Church as being a discussion on “Scotch lock-fishing.”

The second one is from Ireland, which is a surprise.

The third is from the Caribbean, which is no surprise,

And the fourth is also a surprise, and again I wonder if the author was a transplant.

It still looks like outside of Scotland, the Caribbean, and South Africa the use of Old Year’s Night for New Year’s Eve is as rare as hen’s teeth.
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Ken – July 30, 2013
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Re: Old Year's Night

Post by tony h » Thu Aug 01, 2013 8:14 am

I do have a recollection of the phrase from my youth but in the form : last night of the old year.

Having said that this was always an important date as it was also the birth day of my Scots Canadian grandmother. So maybe a Scottish influence.

It is a backward looking phrase which I suspect would make it less useful. New Year's Eve was more common as was nana's birthday.
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: Old Year's Night

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:04 am

tony h wrote:New Year's Eve was more common as was nana's birthday.
Yes, I presume she had had more of them than anyone else in your family.
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Re: Old Year's Night

Post by tony h » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:15 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:
tony h wrote:New Year's Eve was more common as was nana's birthday.
Yes, I presume she had had more of them than anyone else in your family.
Yes, she had but I am catching up ... rapidly/
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

End of topic.
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