Saturday, 31 December 2016

The traditions of Hogmanay

It's the last day of the year (finally!) which means in Scotland folks will be gearing up for the Hogmanay festivities.

While the etymology of the name is contentious, many historians think Hogmanay was influenced by Norse traditions, dovetailing with Yule - the shortest day of the year. In fact, in the Shetland Islands far north off the coast of Scotland New Year is referred to as Yules, demonstrating this tie.

Hogmanay is a time of great celebration and traditions and folk beliefs vary throughout the country. Gifts are widely given on the day, with special attention paid to the first to pass the threshold after midnight. They would be given coal, salt, shortbread, a black bun and whisky to ensure good luck in the house for the coming year in a practice called first footing.

Another tradion was people dressing in cow hide, running through the village bring whacked with a stick. The stick would be wrapped in animal hide and lot, the smoke driving away evil spirits. In the Highlands some would, and still, carry out saining on New Year's morn - a blessing on the household or livestock by sprinkling blessed water from a local living and dead fjord (a river crossed by both the living and the dead) in each room of the house. They would then set slight a bungle of juniper branches and waft them throughout the house, causing a spiritual fumigation. The windows would then be opened to allow the New Years air.

Fire plays a large role in festivities around Scotland. In Stonehaven near Aberdeen fireballs are swung on long metal poles, paraded down the main street, held aloft by multiple people.

So to all celebrating today, happy Hogmanay and Yules - may your 2017 be fantastic. Remember to clean the house before midnight, otherwise it's bad luck!