SCOTLAND IN JANUARY
The Scottish love Hogmanay which is New Years Eve. This day is even more important to many Scots than Christmas Day. The origins came from the Vikings wild celebrations of winter solstice. The origin of the word may have come from the Gaelic ‘ong maiden’ which is new morning or the French ‘homme est ne’ which is man is born or even the Norman French hoguinam meaning a New Year’s gift.
This past year in Edinburgh, the celebrations got underway with a torch light parade up the Royal Mile on Dec 30/17. On Dec 31st there was a street party on Princes Street with midnight fireworks in the Edinburgh castle grounds. On January 1st was the annual ‘Loony Dook’ which is the dunking in the River Forth.
In Inverness they celebrated with a family friendly ‘Red Hot Highland Fling with music and fireworks. All of the shows are put on early enough so people can get home before midnight to hear the bells. Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire has been celebrating a fireballs parade for over 100 years. In Aberdeen itself there was a Hogmanay concert at the Music Hall. And it Biggar an enormous pile of wood gradually stacks up in the final weeks of the year in preparation of the town’s bonfire which was lit at 9:30pm on New Year’s Eve. Dufftown is known as the malt whisky capital of the world and here the community gathers in the square following the Hogmanay ceilidh (hootenanny) where drams of whisky and pieces of shortbread are shared out to see in the bells of midnight. There was an outdoor music concert in Glasgow and fireworks at Stirling Castle. In Comrie thy start preparing for the Comrie Flambeaux in October. This is when they cut down birch trees and the trunks are soaked in the river prior to being wrapped in potato sacks and soaked in paraffin and tar. These become torches and are lit after the bells of midnight. They are carried around town by strong men. This is said to rid the town of evil spirits. In Burghead they ignore the Gregorian calendar and continue to celebrate the old Hogmanay on 11 January. They parade the clave - a wooden barrel filled with wooden staves - through the town before settling it alight on a nearby hill.
First footing is a Hogmanay ritual. To have good luck for the following year, the first person across your threshold should be a dark haired male. This is believed to have come from the days of the Vikings when a light haired stranger meant trouble. The first footer is to bring gifts such as coal, shortbread, black buns or whisky to ensure good fortune for the year ahead. One is to have a clean house to bring in the new year and to clear one’s debts. Some bless their houses and livestock with water and then go room to room with a burning juniper branch. And of course, after the bells of midnight, the tradition of singing Robbie Burns’ Auld Lang Syne is sung in Scotland from whence it came.
One of the most famous Scots was Robbie Burns and as such, he is celebrated on his birthday January 25th each year. The first celebration was in his cottage at the anniversary of his death. Later a Burns club was formed and the annual celebration was started on his birthday.
Typically the evening begins with a piper piping in the guests. The Selkirk grace is said before the soup course. Typical soups are cock-a-leekie or another Scottish broth. After the soup course, a piper pipes in the haggis. Burns' poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ is quoted and a toast with whisky to the haggis is made. The haggis is then served with tatties (mashed potatoes) and neeps (turnip). The dessert course is typically a cranachan or a tipsy laird (whisky trifle). There are usually speeches at the coffee course. This is followed by a toast to the lassies - the women who prepared the meal and then reciting of various works of Burns.