Breaking the New Year’s Cake
In Ireland a number of curious customs were enacted on New Year’s Eve to ensure prosperity for the family in the coming year. There was the necessity of eating a huge meal that resulted in December 31 being known as the Night of the Big Portion. In some parts of Ireland a loaf of bread or a cake was used to strike the door three times while a ritual verse was chanted in which misfortune was bidden to be off and happiness to enter. A variation on this called for a cake to be smashed against the door of the house or barn. (Not to be confused with the wedding custom of breaking the cake on the Irish bride’s head.)
Breaking the Witch
In many countries it was a question of much importance as to who would be the first person across the threshold of the house on Christmas or New Year’s Day. The lucky “first-footer” was usually a dark-haired male and the unluckiest were often women. In Wales if a woman was the first to enter the house on New Year little boys were assembled (sometimes hired) to parade through the house to counteract the evil effects brought by a female first-footer. This process was called “breaking the witch”.