Wednesday, December 31, 2014


The party's already started in Glasgow...and the fireworks in Edinburgh. Is it New Year's Eve? Yeah, but with a twist. This is New Year's Eve in a kilt..Hogmanay! (“Lá Caille” or “Lá Bliana Nua” in Ireland.)

So, there are tons of old variations on the name, and just as many guesses as to the origin of the term (now pronounced “HUG-me-NAY). It could be French, Swedish, Viking..ish. Regardless. It's the celebration that starts New Year's Eve and continues into January 1st, or 2nd (a bank holiday).

Why do the Scots make merry on December 31st in lieu of Christmas? Simple. The Kirk. Christmas was viewed as Catholic, too Popish for good, hard-working Presbyterians. Plus, many folks had to work on the Solstice and Christmas, so the New Year was their time to gather with family and friends. (Yes, they celebrate Christmas now, but old traditions die hard!)

First things first, however. The house had to be cleaned, top to bottom, before midnight. This is the same as in Ireland, where the house was cleaned and Christmas bread banged on the walls and ceilings to loosen and chase any evil from the house, and to welcome good spirits.

Next, debts had to be cleared before the ringing of the midnight bells. The idea was to make a clean start in all things.

Friends, neighbors, and strangers were welcome, but there was the tradition of “First Footing” - the first person to set foot into your home. This should be a dark-haired male, bearing gifts of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun, and whiskey. Where the tradition exists today, whiskey and shortbread does just fine. (Ireland has the same belief. Dark-haired, good looking male at your door? Good luck. Blond or -especially- ginger woman? Bad luck. What would happen if this pair showed up together? ...)

In both Scotland and Ireland, blond or ginger strangers could mean an enemy Viking at your threshold! (I told you – old traditions die hard. Brace yourselves! I'm coming to raid your pantries!, read it again. I said PANTRIES)

In olden times, people in Scotland dressed in hides and were hit by sticks. Tar barrels were set alight and rolled downhill. There would be bonfires, and flaming hides on sticks (also called Hogmanay) would be carried through the village. In modern day, there are fires, fireworks, parades, name it! The entire idea is to chase away the sadness, evil, and negativity of the fading year, and welcome in the crisp fresh energy of the new. Party hardy, it's Helter-Celter!

Meanwhile, in Ireland, there would be a special meal, setting a place for our deadly departed. In Scotland at midnight, while our Scottish kin sing “Auld Lang Syne”, Irish homes were entered through the front door and exited through the back, showing the good energy and luck the way into our dwellings. In places like Dublin, there would be a huge parade on New Year's Day.

Here on the East coast of the USA, mid-atlantic area, we have hold-overs. Naturally, there is drinking. TOO MUCH drinking. Stewed to the “Gaels” as well as the gills. We sing “Auld Lang Syne”...and in Philadelphia, there is a beauty of a parade. The Mummer's Parade, adds the old folk tradition of Mumming with New Year. The parade is 115 years old! (If you've never gone, GO!)

I love a man in feathers

Here's a YouTube video from Ern  Kavangh of the 2013 parade. I can't resist a string band!
No matter how you celebrate, Happy New Year!

No comments:

Post a Comment