Wednesday, 31 December 2014

From Hogmanay to New Year

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!


Teresa Ashby said...

There can be no better place for seeing in the New Year than Scotland with all those lovely traditions!

We still open the doors to listen to the ships at midnight.

Happy New Year Rosemary - I hope it is good in every way xx

Wendy's Writing said...

A very Happy New Year to you too, Rosemary - I hope you'll be joining those young men in kilts on a dance!

Patsy said...

Happy New year and best wishes for 2015.

Joanna said...

A lovely post, Rosemary. Many thanks for conjuring such a lovely picture of Scottish tradition.

Wishing you and your family a very happy and prosperous New Year. xxx

Carolb said...

Lovely to hear about some of your traditions, Rosemary.

I remember my father doing the coal thing, but not many people still use coal now, so sadly it's a dying tradition.

Have a wonderful New Year's Eve, and best wishes for a successful New

Mary Smith said...

I'm afraid I haven't cleaned the house from top to bottom this year - or last year, come to that - but I used to.
And don't forget the whisky - the first-footer should have whisky with him.
All the best for 2015!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks, Teresa - glad you still open the door to hear the boats! All the best to you and yours.

Not this year, unfortunately, Wendy! Have a great year.

Thanks, Patsy- hope all your dreams come true!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks, Joanna - 2015 will be an exciting year for you! All the best with your novel and short stories.

Thank you, Carol- I haven't seen real coal for quite a while! Hope your year is all you wish.

I used to be more careful about everything being spick and span but I'm not so bothered now, Mary! And, of course, he should bring whisky. Have a peaceful New Year.

Maria said...

Happy New Year - Enjoy!

Hywela Lyn said...

Thanks for sharing these memories and customs Rosemary, fascinating! We used to do the 'housecleaning' thing in Wales, and also the 'first footing', so I guess it's a tradition among we Celts! Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy and successful New Year!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thank you, Maria - all the best to you and yours!

Thanks, Lyn - I'm sure there are lots of similarities between the two countries (and Ireland)!