Happy New Year's Eve. I hope your home is a cozy haven tonight, with or without a fireplace (ours is without), and that you are lucky enough to have a couple of dogs or kitties to curl up on the hearth or snuggle at your feet.
Several of my posts in the last couple of weeks were about Christmas in Scandinavia, in honor of my Norwegian heritage. By doing this, I wasn't neglecting my Scottish heritage. In point of fact, there is little to discuss when it comes to the subject of Christmas in Scotland.
Christmas had not traditionally been celebrated there because it was banned for nearly 400 years. Celebrating Christmas was considered by the Church of Scotland - the Presbyterian Church - to be a papist practice.
Until recently in Scotland, Christmas was fairly low key. It wasn't even a public holiday until 1958. Up till then, people worked normally on Christmas day, although the children did get presents.
As a result, most if not all Christmas celebrations nowadays have been brought in from other cultures (notable England and the US.)
The roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, as well as incorporating customs from the Celtic New Year's celebration of Samhain and the ancient Roman Saturnalia.
An old custom in the Highlands, which has survived to a small extent, is to celebrate Hogmanay with the saining - blessing - of the household and livestock. This was done early on New Year's morning by first drinking and then sprinkling 'magic water' in every room, on the beds and all the inhabitants. Then the house was sealed up tight and burning juniper branches were carried through the house and byre.
There are many customs associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of first footing which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky and black bun (a rich fruitcake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day. The first foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year.
The Hogmanay custom of singing "Auld Lang Syne" has become common in many countries. A traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert Burns, it was later set to music. It is now common for this to be sung in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day. Certainly, you are familiar with the words and the tune:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Here's another Scots New Year's song that may not be familiar to you (with meanings for the unusual words: Guid - good, ane an' a - one and all, mony - many, baith - both, twa - two, sma' - small, winna- will not, ilka - every, brae - hillside or slope, burnie - small stream, lang - long, hae - have, cot - cottage.
"A guid new year to ane an' a
O time flies past, he winna wait,
We twa ha'e baith been happy lang.
Noo let us hope our years may be
"I wish for you some new love of lovely things,