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Gary , thank you for sharing that beautiful piece of memories from your
At 11:34 AM 1/01/01 -0500, you wrote:
>Greetings all and Happy New Year.
>To supplement cousin Sinclair's posting on Hogmanay, I am offering this
>explaination , with permission, from a friend in Scotland.
>The sharing of ideas of this type helps teach those of us deeply rooted in
>the states the way the holidays are celebrated. Anyone who can add to this
>please do so or contact me off list as I am collecting as much as I can in
>order to learn and pass it along to my children.
>To all the extended Sinclair family and all the friends on this list I wish
>you luck, good health, and prosperity for the new year and above all I wish
>for the continued sharing and caring of the list.
>Gary M. Sinclair
>New Year's Eve or 'Hogmanay' as we in Scotland call it, and have always
>felt that it is Scotland's own great mid-winter festival.
>There has always been some controversy as to where the name 'Hogmanay'
>originated from. Some would say it came from the Anglo-Saxon Haleg Monath
>(Holy Month), some, from the Gaelic oge maidne (New Morning). But whatever
>the origin of the name, it has remained in the conscience of the Scottish
>people over many centuries.
>It was once the custom in Scotland to give gifts on the first of January,
>and apparently up until around the 18th century the number of gifts given
>then, far outshone those given at Christmas, in both number and quality. It
>is only fairly recently that some parts of Scotland ended the practice of
>giving tokens to children, which themselves were called "hogmanays".
>The very fact that Scotland chose to celebrate the New Year in preference
>to Christmas is said to have its roots in the Kirk, which viewed the
>Christmas celebrations as ' superstitious and popish'.
>Visiting friends and relatives immediately after New Year's Eve, after the
>bells have rung in the New Year in the morning of January 1st, was known,
>and still is, as First footing, the tradition of being the "first foot" in
>the house after midnight (and it is that the only person that really
>matters is the 'first-foot) whom should ideally be male, tall dark, and
>handsome without a limp, stammer or other physical handicap and should
>carry symbolic coal, to signify warmth and comfort, shortbread, salt, black
>bun ( a spiced cake) to denote plenty and, of course, whisky from which to
>pour a wee dram to toast the health of all whom lived in the hoose. When I
>was but an awfu wee laddie, our granny always gave us a silver coin to be
>given at the first foot to ensure prosperity.
>As a bairn, my own memories of Hogmanay were always happy. These being
>memories of men carrying coal, black bun and whisky into the house, and of
>streets in Perth lively and bright with singing until well into the
>daylight hours. And it was that the people who throughout the previous year
>might have been antagonistic and just plain unfriendly towards each other
>would suddenly become the best of friends, while the practice of kissing
>absolute strangers never seemed to cause embarrassment on either party, in
>fact I can weel remember an auld spey type wifie with the second-sight, at
>a bothy Hogmanay celebration I was once party to, did bless me apparently
>with the special 'kissing' and it was to be that hence onwards that a kiss
>from the Huntingtower was itself much envied by mony a lass for as "but a
>kiss from him was but sae special itself" but I digress, and one Hogmanay
>tradition I myself weel enough remember, although it seems to have now died
>out, was the "Creaming of the Well". The cream referred to was the first
>water from the local well or spring on a New Years Day. Since the well
>would only be drawn the once, everyone would race to reach it, and in
>particular the young lassies, for possession of the first water drawn was
>said to guarantee marriage within the New Year. It was said that for this
>to work, the young woman concerned would have to get the lad they desired
>to marry to drink the water before the end of that first day. And it was to
>be that the Huntingtower was very guarded when awaking in the morning or
>whatever morning I eventually awakened, to but be very cautious in
>accepting a drink of water from any lassie.
>In all the traditions and customs of Hogmanay, one theme survives, that the
>new year must begin on a happy note, with a clean break from all that may
>have been bad in the old year. It is from this underlying theme that the
>most common of all Hogmanay traditions has its root, the New Year
>resolution. Sadly, although such resolutions are made in a meaningful and
>honest manner, few last longer than the third dram or second cigarette!
>But there was the other traditions as weel, things like: Preparing the
>hoose, Fire and Water rituals, the Weather watching signs, and the new
>Year's day omens, and make nae mistake the traditional 'Hogmanay' had its
>differences between the Lowlands Highland and Islands.
>But it was the 'Hogmanay' in the rural parts that I weel enough remember as
>being the better than in the toons, a wee knock on the door of some cottage
>or farm-house and that was it, you always were the welcome, aye, and inside
>everyone did a party piece, a ceilidh right enough, either a song or tune,
>poem or story and man o'man a wee dance upon the floor with a bonnie
>lassie, aye, and always a pot of scotch broth, in fact it was when I was
>but a laddie, that when you 'first-footed' it was, a wee dram shared, a
>plate of soup, a kiss, a dance. A story etc., etc., then out and a walk to
>the next hoose, where you started all ower agin, and with the braw plate of
>soup and the walk this sobered you up agin for the next puckle drams, aye,
>Happy Days indeed .
>"The preparation" this itself caused much work, (just like thon lassies
>war-cry at the spring-cleaning) for it was considered most unlucky for any
>abode to be untidy or unclean by midnight on New Years eve (Hogmanay), and
>I can weel enough remember the days aforehand spent by the Granny and
>Mither scrubbing and polishing the hoose until it shone brightly, it seemed
>to me as a wee laddie that everything in the hoose received the attention,
>and even in the wee bothy, it was that, just afore the 'bells sounded' that
>the last of any dust or dirt and the ashes from the fireplace were
>ritually, as the old year died out, put outside, the final cleansing of the
>old as it were.
>It was also that water from the well was brought and sprinkled over the
>hoose, and I can weel enough remember the panic that ensued when one year
>the wee well water was frozen solid and it was the urine from the coo that
>Dried Juniper was burned to cleanse the interior of the barn, I cannot
>remember if this was used in the hoose, and Rowan collected was placed
>above the door, apparently for luck, Holly of course to keep the fairies
>out, Mistletoe to prevent illness and i think it was the Yew or Hazel that
>was used to protect all within the hoose.
>When midnight of the New Year but came it was then that nothing could be
>taken from the hoose, not until something had been brought in.
>I can weel enough remember that the 'first foot' would bring in the lump of
>coal, go to the fireplace, place it upon the unlit fire, and then the
>master of the hoose lit the fire with the coal upon it, then it was the
>celebrations started, and in the morning as the embers of the fire lay
>dead, it was the 'spey wifie' wha came and examined them, raking among the
>ashes, examining them for any signs of omens and ill fortune.
>And if anybody in the hoose should die, then the body it was said would
>bring the worst of ill luck if allowed to lie in the hoose over the
>Hogmanay, and burial was a hastily arranged affair if someone died in the
>last days of December.
>And as I grew from but being a wee laddie in shorts to the manhood in lang
>trous, it was in Perth at the Cross (at the Skinnergate/High street
>junction) that we made our way amongst the crowds, carrying our traditional
>bottle, and as the clocks hands neared midnight, the magic moment, there
>was the hushed silence from the crowd, everything as still and as quiet as
>could but be, everyone counting the seconds, holding their breath, waiting
>for the first stroke of 12, then from the silence a church bell was heard
>and that lit the torch-paper for all of a sudden it was 'New Year's morn,
>and everyone started the shaking of the hands, the kissing of the lassies,
>the sharing of the drams from the bottles, the wishing of guid luck, health
>and prosperity to one and all, freind, relative and stranger alike, the
>street that had been so silent with nae even a whisper, the silence itself
>absolutely stunning, and it was thon first bell sound that in one moment an
>explosion as it were had taken place, for all around everyone was
>spontaneously with chorus of 'Auld lang Syne, and even from the Harbour
>could be heard the sirens of the ships, the churches with their bells
>ringing, and in the country the farmers would be firing their shotguns in
>the air, I believe, though never witnessed it myself, that in the mining
>villages, it was the pits horns that also sounded.
>And then the crowds would at some time disperse making their way to homes
>of family and friends where the 'ceilidh' type of morning had but often
>commenced and there was the soup pot which never seemed to go dry, and then
>the ritual of leaving and onward to another hoose, where it all started
>once again, the sharing of the bottle etc., etc., and then at some point
>whether it be at your Mithers or Granny's hoose it was the New Year's day
>feast, which as far as i can remember was without variation, being:
>Scotch broth soup, Steak Pie (often for me it was the Rabbit Pie), Cabbage
>or Turnip and tatties, followed by the Clottie Dumpling. Aye, a grand feast
>thon was indeed, just grand itself.
>But for me it was that the absolute magic of Hogmanay was of the drawing
>together of the family.
>The ending of any auld animosity, I even had the cheek to visit the polis
>hoose at Almonbank as weel, aye with the lump of coal, and never but a
>welcome itself can I remember, mind you, maybe not sae welcome had the
>polis kent that the lump of coal had itself been shifted by magic from the
>coal yards of the Perth railway company, but then wha wid care, no, it was
>a friendly enough time was the 'Hogmanay'
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- From: "Gary M. Sinclair, Harwich, Ma. USA" <email@example.com>