"Cake Day" in New York City?

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Dec 26 17:19:37 UTC 2004

Congratulations to Grant Barrett! Great article.
Me, I had to wait and beg constantly for twelve years and see both of my  
parents die before I'd get an unpaid article about the name of New York City.  
Sure was worth it.
In other matters: The FYI column declares a "Cake Day" in NYC on New Year's  
Day, but I disagree.
"Cake Day" is not in the full text New York Times. Making of America  now has 
hundreds of NYC books, and it's not there, either.
cake, ne.
    b.  In Scotland (parts of Wales, and north of England), spec. a thin  
hard-baked brittle species of oaten-bread. Hence the name Land of Cakes (i.e. of 
oaten bread), applied  (originally in banter) to Scotland, or the Scottish 

a1572  _KNOX_ (http://dictionary.oed.com/help/bib/oed2-k.html#knox)  Hist. 
Ref. (1732) 42 (Jam.) That winter following sa nurturit the Frenche men, that 
they  leirnit to eit, yea, to beg caikis, quhilk at their entry they scornit. 
1620 _VENNER_ (http://dictionary.oed.com/help/bib/oed2-v.html#venner)  Via Recta 
i. 17 Of Oates  in Wales, and some of the Northerne shires of England, they 
make bread,  especially in manner of Cakes. 1669 SIR R. MORAY  in Lauderdale 
Papers (1885) II. cxiv. 171 If you do not come out of the land of cakes before 
New Year's  day. 1715  Pennecuick's Tweeddale Note 89 (Jam.) The oat-cake, 
known by the sole appellative of cake, is the bread  of the cottagers. c1730  
_BURT_ (http://dictionary.oed.com/help/bib/oed2-b4.html#burt)  Lett. N. Scotl. 
(1818) II. 164 The Lowlanders call their part of the country the land of cakes. 
1789 _BURNS_ (http://dictionary.oed.com/help/bib/oed2-b4.html#burns)  Capt. 
Grose i, Hear,  Land o' Cakes, and brither Scots. 1864 _A.  MCKAY_ 
(http://dictionary.oed.com/help/bib/oed2-m.html#a-mckay)  Hist. Kilmarnock 113  With 
abundance of cakes. Mod. Country children  in Scotland still ‘seek their cakes’ on 
Hogmanay or ‘Cake-day’. Among the  rimes used, one hears ‘My feet's cauld, my 
shoon's thin, Gie's my cakes, and  let's rin.’    
It's been declared that New Year's Day in New York was once called "Cake  
Day." I went through several databases of New York material without finding  s 
single citation for "Cake Day.."
Scotland did have a "Cake Day" on New Year's Eve, so take that for what  it's 
26 December 2004, New York <i>Times</i>, city section, pg.  2:
Q. I came across a reference to "Cake Day" as a traditional holiday in  old 
New York, and grew curious. It sounds like a child's birthday party.  
A. The holiday was New Year's Day, and the cakes are explained in a 2002  
article by Sibyl McCormac Groff in Antiques magazine.  
Until the late 19th century, New Year's Day was celebrated more widely than  
Christmas in the city. "One of the holiday customs continued by New Yorkers 
was  the longstanding Dutch tradition known as New Year's Day calling," Ms. 
Groff  wrote.  
Every woman who considered herself anybody stayed at home, dressed in her  
best, beside a table covered with cakes, preserves, wines, oysters and coffee.  
The number of callers was a source of pride and competition.  
"For the gentlemen," Ms. Groff wrote, "New Year's Day calling, or 'cake day,' 
 as it was sometimes called, was a race to see how many calls one could make 
to  the houses of friends and associates." One mayor made calls for five hours 
while  his daughter entertained 169 well-wishers. Instructions for the feast 
and the  day's etiquette were printed in contemporary magazines. The tradition 
died as  neighborhoods fanned out, making calling impractical. 
6 January 1941, New York <i>Times</i>, pg. E8: 
<i>CAKE DAY</i> 
At noon on Dec. 31 workers in Scottish shipyards and engineering works to the 
 number of a million or more laid down their tools and began a brief holiday. 
It  is curious to find old folk-custom prevailing even in a period of extreme 
 national danger. Hogmanay, said to be a Norman word, is the name given in  
Scotland and to some extent in Yorkshire to the last day of the year, more  
popularly known in the Land of Cakes as Cake Day. 
What Christmas Eve and Christmas and Boxing Day are to South Britain, the  
last day of the year, New Year's Eve and Day are, or at least long were, to  
Scotland. In the old convivial times the New Year festivities were called Daft  
(mad) Days. On Hogmanay, children, especially in the country and in remote  
places, used to wrap themselves up in a sheet doubled in front to make a pocket  
and visit the houses of the well-to-do, where they cried "Hogmanay!" 
To them this meant a quarter of an oat cake, with sometimes a bit of cheese  
for favorites of a particular household. Such begging rites, fragments of  
forgotten mummeries, survive in almost every country. The Scots workmen out for  
a lark may have forgotten or never heard of the old custom, so many of them 
are  city-born. They have not forgotten a memorable feast day of the Scots 
Calendar.  On Hogmanay the boys called "guisers" (maskers) used to sing or present 
a sort  of rough drama. Sir Walter Scott always had this played by guisers art 
 Abbotsford. If Hogmanay did nothing but remind us of that brave spirit it 
would  be worth remembering.

More information about the Ads-l mailing list