New Year’s Day, also known as Lá Caille or Lá Bliana Nua, is celebrated on 1 January each year in Ireland.
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Over the past centuries, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have carried a tapestry of rituals, traditions and superstitions but many are fading against the modern ways to celebrate the New Year.
In the past, those who had died during the previous year were remembered by a place being set at the table for them and the front door left unlatched to allow them in. Unmarried men and women would put mistletoe under their pillows in the hope that they would dream about their future spouses.
To show gratitude for the previous year, and hope for the new, homes were thoroughly cleaned before New Year’s Eve. Cellars were filled and coal, and larders with food and provisions. Today, as in most western countries, the celebrations are on New Year’s Eve and towns and cities across the land celebrate with happy street parties and gala balls then, at midnight, the New Year is seen in with fireworks.
Many local communities have created their own traditions. On the beach of County Mayo, on the first day of the year, a collection of brave people takes an icy swim around the middle of the day. After they have shivered their way back up the beach, each swimmer is warmed up by dry clothes and a bowl of hot soup.
For those less brave about the cold, and braver about their odds, horse races are run on New Year’s Day at many places including the Fairyhouse Racecourse near Rathoath, north of Dublin.
Everywhere the theme of New Year’s Eve and Day in Ireland is celebration, family and rest before the focus on the next twelve months.