Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hogmanney

Hogmanney is the Scottish New Year, a mixture of ancient traditions and, possibly, a more modern reaction to the strict Cromwellian restrictions of the Middle Ages. It has a number of characteristics. Bonfires are a part, perhaps from Viking or Clan days. "Redding" the house is another. It is a ritualistic cleaning, a readying for the new year. The fireplace is swept and some read the ashes, like auguries. After midnight, neighbors visit, bringing small gifts, usually food, and receiving them, usually whiskey. Importance was placed on the first to enter in the new year, the "first foot." (Tall handsome men were good, redheaded women bad.) The house and the livestock are blessed with water from a local stream--which sounds really old--and then the woman of the house would go from room to room with a smoldering juniper branch, seemingly counteracting all the "redding" with smoke. Robert Burn's version of the traditional Scottish Auld Lang Syne, which translates to “times gone by,” is sung.

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