Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, or winter break if you don’t celebrate anything in particular. I had a great time with the family and I'm now stocked up with books, CDs and chocolate, amongst other lovely goodies.
Today is the traditional Scottish Hogmanay and although we now enjoy the main part of the evening with a meal at the village restaurant before ‘bringing in the bells’, at one time this was a huge annual holiday up here. When I was young, each housewife cleaned her home from top to bottom, everyone in the family had a bath and hair wash and the ashes from the open fire were taken out, ensuring we met the New Year as clean as possible. I'm afraid I didn't follow that tradition for long!
Having always lived near the River Clyde, we used to open the back doors at midnight to hear any ships on the river toot their horn to welcome the New Year. One tradition that still thrives in some places is the dancing. Many halls up and down the country host a ceilidh for Scottish country dancing. The best have a live group with fiddles and accordion – the most toe-tapping sound you’re likely to hear all year! With energetic eightsome reels and dashing white sergeants, jigs and strathspeys, very few people sit still. And even more young men now wear the kilt at special occasions, pleated tartan swinging at each turn. Enormous fun.
For those celebrating at home, our television channels bring us the evening’s entertainment from Glasgow or Edinburgh, with singing and Scottish dancing. As twelve o'clock approaches, the ‘bells’ are counted down until the stroke of midnight when we wish each other Happy New Year with a handshake, a kiss, and a toast. In the past, we used to then sit down to our first meal of the New Year: steak pie - at just after midnight! I still make a steak pie as the first meal of the year, but we have it a more sensible time on New Year's Day.
But another old tradition must be observed if possible. Each home should have a ‘first footer’ – a tall, dark and handsome man as the first person to enter a house any time after midnight on Hogmanay. He should bring a lump of coal for luck (not so common now!) and some shortbread or cake. Anyone visiting homes over the New Year period will always take something for the host. And of course, it wouldn't be Hogmanay without the ‘wee dram’ of whisky to toast the New Year. Cheers!
So here’s my toast to you all:
Wishing you a Happy, Healthy
and Successful New Year!