Happy Hogmanay

Joylina Goodings

31st December is Hogmanay in Scottish tradition also known world wide as New Year's Eve. There are several traditions and superstitions that should be taken care of before midnight on the 31st December: these include cleaning the house and taking out the ashes from the fire, there is also the requirement to clear all your debts before "the bells" sound midnight, the underlying message being to clear out the remains of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young new year on a happy note.

Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and nowadays is synonymous with New Years Eve celebrations. The roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the invading Vikings in the early 8th and 9th centuries as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain, where they paid particular attention to the arrival of the Winter Solstice or the shortest day, and fully intended to celebrate its passing with some serious partying.

An integral part of the Hogmanay party, which is continued with equal enthusiasm today, is to welcome friends and strangers with warm hospitality and of course lots of enforced kissing for all. 

"First footing" (or the "first foot" in the house after midnight) is still common across Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house the first foot should be a dark male, and he should bring with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. The dark male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your door step with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year!  

The firework displays and torchlight processions now enjoyed throughout the world are reminders of the ancient pagan parties from those Viking days of long ago. The traditional New Year ceremony would involve people dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village whilst being hit by sticks. The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires and tossing torches. Animal hide wrapped around sticks and ignited produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective in warding off evil spirits: this smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay. 

WIshing you all a happy, healthy and abundant New Year.