Sunday, December 31, 2017
JD presents Hogmanay!
A guid New Year to ane an` a` and mony may ye see!
While New Year's Eve is celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event - and we have our own name for it, Hogmanay.
There are many theories about the derivation of the word "Hogmanay". The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was "Hoggo-nott" while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) "hoog min dag" means "great love day". Hogmanay could also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning. But the most likely source seems to be the French. "Homme est né" or "Man is born" while in France the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged was "aguillaneuf" while in Normandy presents given at that time were "hoguignetes". Take your pick!
In Scotland a similar practice to that in Normandy was recorded, rather disapprovingly, by the Church. "It is ordinary among some Plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane." Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, 1693.
Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years. (I think it became a public holiday round about 1960.) The reason for Christmas not being celebrated has its roots in the Protestant Reformation when the Kirk portrayed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast and therefore had to be banned. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children. There are traditions before midnight such as cleaning the house on 31st December (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common). There is also the superstition to clear all your debts before "the bells" at midnight. (I wonder how many people still try to clear their debts!)
An integral part of the Hogmanay partying, which continues very much today, is to welcome friends and strangers, with warm hospitality to wish everyone a Guid New Year. The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.
"First footing" (that is, the "first foot" in the house after midnight) is not as common as it used to be in Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should be male, dark (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble) and should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky. These days, however, whisky and perhaps shortbread are the only items still prevalent and very welcome they are!.
And of course it has become traditional to overindulge and wake up the following day with a 'sair heid'. -