Happy Hogmanay!

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.  My father was Scottish and very proud of his heritage.  He was a Scottish Highland Dancer as a child, and played the drums in the Cleveland Kiltie Band (a pipe band) as an adult.  I was also a Scottish dancer as a child.  When Andrew and I became teenagers, we gave up American-style birthday cakes for clootie dumplings, a traditional Scottish boiled pudding wrapped in a cloth ("clootie").  We celebrated Robert Burns birthday and St. Andrews Day every year.  And we always had a party on New Years Eve, known in Scotland as Hogmanay.

I remember going to the practices of the Cleveland Kiltie Band in the 60s and 70s.  Watching them practice their tunes and march up and down the room.  And, of course, we went to many parades and watched them march.  In this photo, taken during an indoor performance, Dad is in the last row on the right:
In Scotland, Hogmanay was traditionally a bigger party than Christmas.  After the Protestant Reformation, the Kirk of Scotland deemed Christmas to be a Catholic festival. It was virtually banned for nearly 400 years.  In fact, until 1958, Christmas was not an official holiday in Scotland.  Instead, Scots exchanged presents and feasted at New Years. These days Christmas is still considered  a day to go to church and visit family, and the big party still happens on Hogmanay.

If you want to celebrate a Scottish Hogmanay, you must clean your house on December 31.  This is called "Redding the House."  Also, all of your bills should be paid before midnight.  And then the party begins.  The new year is rung in with whisky (Scotch, of course), food, music and fireworks.

At midnight, you join people all over the world singing "Auld Lang Syne".  When you sing it this year, remember that it was written by Robert Burns, the Scottish National Poet.

In this next picture, Dad is in the middle.  Mr. Callander, a close family friend and the pipe major of the Cleveland Kiltie Band, is on the left:
On New Years Day, my father was always in demand as a "First Footer."  Scots believe that if the first person in your door on January 1 is a tall dark male, you will be ensured good luck in the new year. The First Footer should bring a small gift, usually whisky or shortbread, and should be offered a glass of whisky in return.  Dad had a few select families he would visit early on New Years Day.

On the other hand, if your first visitor is blond, you will be doomed to a year filled with trouble.  This belief is probably the result of the long history of invasions by the Vikings, when a blond at your door often offered you the sharp edge of a sword rather than a piece of shortbread.

Here I am with Mr. Callander, 1964 or so:
This year, our Hogmanay celebration will be very low key.  Brian and I will eat canapés (in lieu of dinner), sip whisky, watch old movies and toast the New Year with champagne at midnight.

And we'll sing "Auld Lang Syne," of course.  Happy New Year to you all!


Vera Holmgren said…
Thanks for sharing, very interesting reading! Happy New Year!
I've never heard of this tradition before, thanks for teaching me something new!
Jaye Dodds said…
And Happy New Year to you, too, Heather! Thanks for a great post! I love hearing about the traditions you grew up with and seeing the pictures!
Sarah Ann Smith said…
So raise a cup of kindness yet.....Happy New Year, and thanks for helping me learn! I have a special affection for Scotland (my Irish grannie was born in Glasgow as her parents were there en route from the Irish potato famine to, eventually, America, and ancestors on the other side were Kirkpatricks). I seem to like North and Cold. Enjoy your evening!
Gay Young said…
Thanks for enlightening us !! Very interesting and informative post!! Happy Hogmanay!
LA Paylor said…
that was an amazing description Heather, thank you! I put a great version of Auld LS on my blog this morning. Happy day and year to you and your husband. I wish we lived a bit closer. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you this month! LeeAnna
Janice Smith said…
Happy Hogmanay! I enjoyed reading your post very much. I hope you have a creative, happy, healthy year ahead.