Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Literary Ramblings and Celtic Folklore For Hogmanay


Here's a miscellany of enticing little curiosities concerned with Hogmanay ( New Year's in Scotland), old Celtic folklore, traditions, etc...  I have accumulated a lot of interesting books over time, and it's a pleasure to share these archaic pieces with any of you who may find some curious appeal in them!  I assembled this piece a few years ago, when my head was full of Scottish music and books, and so it has come from another site which no longer exists, but this a good time to repost it.

A guid New Year to ane and a'
And mony may ye see;
And during a' the year to come,
Happy may ye be.          A Guid New Year

Now we hae gotten't in aboot,
An' a' orr thingies ticht,
We gather roun' the festive board
To spend a jolly nicht.      The Hairst o' Rettie

Rise up, guidwife, and shake yir featers;
Dinna think that we are beggars,
We're only bairnies come to play
So up and gie's our Hogmanay.      Children's rhyme

Mummer's plays were popular at this time of year:
"Eader a' da la Nodlag-between Christmas Day and New Year's Day the mummers took to the streets.
There was St. George and St. Denis and St. Patrick in their buffe coats, and the Turke was there likewise and Oliver Cromwell and a Doctor, and an old woman who made rare sport, till Belsibub came in with a frying pan upon his shoulder and a great flail in his hand thrashing about him on friends and foes, and at last running away with the bold usurper, Cromwell, whom he tweaked by his gilded nose- and there came a little devil with a broom to gather up the money that was thrown to the Mummers for the sport.  It is an ancient pastime, they tell me, of the Citizens."
                                                            A Visitor To Cork, 1685

In the Isle of Man, New Year's Day was often called Little Christmas.  Fiddlers would go from house to house to rouse the occupants with music, and their wives would follow the next day for payment, usually food or drink.

"The eve of New Year's Day was one of supreme importance in the Highlands and Islands of the West and took precedence even over Christmas.  It was a time of much ceremony and gaity, but underneath the levity lies a sinister hint of the old ritual and sacrificial nature of the festival.  The eve of New Year was known as Oidhche Challuinn, and New Year's Day as La' Challiunn.  First-footing is still carried out, as in other parts of the Highlands, although, as elsewhere, it is a dying custom."
The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands by Anne Ross, 1976

Here's an old Hogmanay verse:
Tonight is the hard night of Hogmanay,
I am come with a lamb to sell-
The old fellow yonder sternly said
He would strike my ear against a rock.
The woman, better of speech, said
That I should be let in;
For my food and for my drink,
A morsel due and something with it.

Highland Weather Almanac:
The Highlanders form a sort of almanac or presage of the weather for the ensuing year in the following manner.  They make observation on twelve days, beginning at the last of December, and hold as an infallible rule that whatsoever weather happens on each of those days, the same will prove to agree in the correspondent months.  Thus, January is to answer to the weather of December the 31st, February to that of January 1st; and so on with the rest.  Old people still pay great attention to this augury.       Thomas Pennant, A Tour In Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, 1772

In the Celtic lands of Britain, the people did not at first take kindly to the introduction of the New Style calendar in 1752, and tenaciously clung to the old order of things, including the stubborn conviction that 6 January was the real Christmas day.    from, A Celtic Book of Days

In the past the calendrical significance of January varied according to whether Celtic, Anglo-Saxon or Norse tradition was followed, with Yule continuing all month in the north of Scotland, but Christmas elsewhere originally on 5th January (or 6th) but ending on New Year's Eve.

In another folk customs book, it states that on New Year's Day morning in Scotland, men can traditionally demand a kiss from any woman they know...which could be nice, or not, depending on who you happened to meet!

I often tend to get moody or melancholy at New Year's Eve for some reason, but am doing all right this time, just not dwelling on it too much.  For it is a fresh new year, be hopeful and think on good things!  Happy New Year!


  1. Happy new year, Lori!

    I think the world is divided into those who party away on New Year's Eve and those who go to bed early... I'm one of the latter too, and I suspect my dislike of the new year is the pressure there always was when I was younger to go to a party and have a wonderful time.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your pieces about Hogmanay, and look forward to all your posts for 2014! I hope the melancholy is still at bay.

    1. Happy New Year, Helen! I agree, although I don't go to bed early, I'm not much of a partier, prefer to bring in the new year more quietly. Maybe that's my problem! I think too much is made of the new year, and I suppose I'm never quite ready to end the old one. I personally don't find the idea of hours of fireworks and being in the midst of a great crowd of drunk people to be a good time! Actually the new year was terrible, a bit of a household disaster relating to plumbing, and the whole week was not so good, so I think I'll start the new year now! I hope yours has started off nicely.

      I'm glad you liked the blog, it's lovely to hear from you, it's been so quiet over here lately (even though I'm getting a lot of readers) that I wondered what was wrong!

    2. Lots of readers is good! And thinking up a comment can be difficult, I know I struggle, because somehow writing 'O what a lovely post' or 'I agree' seems so lame. But receiving comments is such a pleasure. I am going to make more of an effort with commenting in the future...

      So sorry that the year began badly, a plumbing disaster at this time of year is not fun (well, it never is, that's a silly thing to write). Better to begin now, with the end of the in-between, holiday time and the beginning of the rest of it all.

      I hope you're feeling better!

    3. Thank you, I am better. You are right about commenting Helen, getting past 'O what a lovely post', etc... takes more thought, and if one is reading several blogs it can get overwhelming. Some people follow a huge amount of blogs. But it is always encouraging to get some feedback occasionally, otherwise one begins to wonder if they are just blogging for themself!

      I look forward to reading all your pieces in this new year, you always have something interesting to relay! Best wishes, Lori