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Huntingtower's annual contribution ;-)))))):

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. 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 you 'first-footed' 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 ;-))))) och!!! I could tell you stories about Hogmanay right enough.

And noo, from last year, it was myself that wrote thus:

It is funny how something viewed or heard suddenly brings the auld grey
cells back to the memory front, for as tired as I was with the events of
the last week, it was the 'Hogmanay' enquiry from the Jody herself that had
me day-dreaming about the 'Hogmanay' that I can weel enough remember,
albeit with wee gaps nae doubt, but it was at my grans hoose that the
family and friends gathered but also my memories go back to remembering
things like:

"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
was used.

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.

And often as not I found myself with a lassie by my side, happen a lassie
wha had accompanied me from some hoose I had visited, and wha wid be
enjoying the fayre at my Grans table and them relatives of mine there,
wondering why I had nay had the manners to introduce the lassie afore the
New Year, and oorselves had just nae lang met.

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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