Saturday, 31 December 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR… but first...

… it’s HOGMANAY! The traditions here in Scotland are still very strong. Hogmany is the Scots word for the last day of the year. Although the world sees Scotland bring in the New Year with Edinburgh’s Street Party and fireworks it is the households of Scotland that keep the traditions of Hogmany alive.

I’ll not have much time for gardenwatching today but the birds have clean feeders and food so they’re already catered for. Ah yes… that cleaning and food catering is a huge part of Hogmany here in Scotland.

Let’s start with that cleaning and the reason I am up early today! Hard as I try every Hogmany not to succumb to the urge to clean everything I can reach, I never really succeed. It really is in our genes.

Yes, l will end this year with an evening washing of the kitchen floor and making sure every bin is emptied before the bells ring in the New Year. Sad but true, this cleaning of the house on December the 31st is a tradition here in Scotland. All my friends and family will be doing the same although not necessarily in the same order. Some will do more, some will do less.

Whenever its light this morning (by the time I have finished this post probably) I’ll be outside cleaning my windows… after recent winds they need it. Nope… I can’t miss out the window clean ;-)

Then there’s the food! Just why do Scots fill up their food trolleys even higher than they did for Christmas just the week before? Well, for one the shops are closed for longer than at Christmas but that isn’t the main reason.

All the Scottish homes that stay up to ‘bring in the bells’ will have a bounty of food and beverages to welcome any visitors they get. Again that can vary from a selection of cold snacks to hot buffets.

Oh… that reminds me I need to buy some packets of shortbread! You see, the street parties really began in the small streets in our villages and small towns where we wandered between each other’s houses taking with us bags containing a first-footing gift for each house and some beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).

We would always knock on the door to be greeted by the householder so we could pass over a gift. When my parents had a coal fire we would have a piece of coal wrapped in paper to give as our gift. Now, I usually have packets of shortbread wrapped.

Traditionally, this first-footing (first foot over the doorstep) gift was to bring good luck to the household and if there was a male (preferably with dark hair) he handed over the gift. We would shake hands and exchange kisses as we wished everyone in the household a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

If someone was bringing in their first New Year in their house then they stayed there and neighbours, friends and family would visit them. That’s when the tall, dark first foot through the door for the New Year is followed more to give that new home good luck. This is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble.

I can remember fondly our first-foots of our first New Year (newly married) in our first new home. My parents had driven through, waited around the corner listening to the bells come in on the car radio before ringing our doorbell just after midnight. They brought coal too! That was a quite a surprise :-)

Traditionally when first-footing, from our bag, we would pour a small drink for everyone in the household. The household will also pour a small drink from their selection for us. We would raise our glasses wishing each other Good Health & Happiness for the New Year. We would then be offered food. Lol… yes spirits could be high by the end of the night in some occasions but as the night could be a long one drinks exchanged aren’t always alcoholic.

It is the hospitality tradition that is still followed here. This tradition can be followed over a few days (weather permitting) as visits to families and friends living further away are made. First-footing gifts are still given even then as you are still wishing the household good luck for the following year. Once again food is offered and many toasts to the New Year will be non-alcoholic ones as people are driving around houses.

This New Year, we’re not expecting visitors as the bells come in. Our street is a quiet one at New Year. That’s ok. We will stay up and bring in the bells whilst watching Hootenanny with Jools Holland and his live guests on the television. Our daughters are going to friends parties locally and will probably be back before it ends which will be nice they might even bring back friends with them. Lol… and I’ll have hot food for them sitting in a slow cooker :-)

Stovies was what my Mum had waiting for us when we came in. She made hers in the tradition way of leftovers from the Sunday Roast. She’d keep the end bits of her roast beef (chopping them roughly up) and the dripping from the roast.

For my Mum’s stovies, she’d add potatoes, roughly chopped onion and beef sausages (pre browned and cut in pieces) to the dripping with seasoning and a little water. The potatoes would cook until almost mushy and once the sausages were cooked the bits of roast beef would be added to heat through. She would also let the stovies almost burn in her pan so there were brown crispy bits of potato through the softer potatoes which she would stir through. These were the really tasty bits we all loved.

Tonight’s planned slow cooker meal I’ll have for any visitors is almost a version of my Mum’s stovies. I’m making a potato and sausage casserole. My recipe has sausages, bacon, onion, garlic, potatoes, fresh sage and vegetable stock in it. The warm smell of it cooking will fill the house later. We will be smelling one of my families tradition of Hogmanay :-)

However you spend this last day of the year, do enjoy it and share it here too if you’ve time ;-)

Wishing everyone that has visited my blog all my very best wishes for Health and Happiness in 2012. Have a great one :-)

Oh… that gardenwatching thing… just looked out my window and a good sized group of long-tailed tits have just breezed through my garden feeding on a variety of feeders. Now that’s a lovely start to Hogmanay :-)




This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch on the last day of December 2011.

17 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is a delightful post Shirley. I so wish I could be one of the first footings. The only bad thing is I have white hair but my DB.still has dark hair. :) I had just read about Hogmanay on wikipidia. I was reading about Auld Lang Syne and you know how one thing leads to another. It is great to know this it is true and people continue this celebration. It sounds marvelous.

We will gather with friends at a club here in town. We have some friends that play in a band so we will go listen to them play out the old year. Actually I don't know if I can stay awake until midnight. I am such an early to bed early to rise person. Then on New Years Day we go birding (our own tradition)to start our Annual Bird List. Later in the day we will go to a friends house to eat corned beef, carrots, black eyed peas and cabbage that has been cooked together. It is supposed to bring good luck to the year. In between all this we take down all our Christmas decorations and give everything a good cleaning when doing so.

I want to wish you the Happiest Healthiest New Year. Thanks for being a great blogging friend.

Janet said...

Interesting post Shirley. I don't know anyone that first foots after the bells anymore. Friends in Edinburgh go to the street party or stay home. Here a few people get wasted in the High Street but other than that it's really quiet. I'm sort of sad about the disappearance of the traditions. Anyway have a good time and all the best for 2012.

Sue@G.L. Allotments said...

I didn't realise that all those old traditions were still kept going! Glad I'm south of the border though as I don't fancy cleaning today!

Happy Hogmanay

Year Round Vegetable Gardener said...

Thanks for this detailed post! As a Nova Scotian, I can certainly claim a good deal of Scottish heritage and it was lovely to read about the traditions that still thrive..

Happy Hogmanay!! And all the best for 2012!

Anna said...

A most interesting post Shirl. I have heard about first footing but fascinating to read about it in more detail. Did not realise so much cleaning was involved beforehand. It sounds most civilised tradition and infinitely preferable to some of the New Year celebrations which go on on this side of the border. We will be celebrating much the same way as you, in the company of Mr Holland but sadly without any stovies or sausage casserole. Your post has tickled my tastebuds.
May the new year treat you and those that you love kindly and may all that graces your garden flourish xxx

Lona said...

What a fabulous posting. I have enjoyed reading of the Scottish tradition. I had never heard of it but I so love the idea of it.
Happy New Year to you.

Midmarsh John said...

A really interesting read Shirl. I can remember the tradition of a gift of a piece of coal for first footing from my childhood in London, preferably from a dark haired visitor.

Very best wishes to you and yours for 2012

lotusleaf said...

What a delightful post!I loved the bit about the dark haired man being the preferred one:) We have something like that too, on January 14, which is called Sankranti. Then we exchange sesame seeds, coconut, jaggery and sugarcane with our friends and neighbors.Happy New Year!

Little Brown Job said...

Happy New Year Shirl, we also watch Jools every new year and maybe the odd special scotch or three :-)

Orchids and Nature said...

Loved reading your latest posting, it reminded me of some of the old Lancashire traditions.
All the best for 2012.

Wife, Mother, Gardener said...

Sounds like a yummy evening! Thanks for sharing your traditions.

We were at a party with our friends, eating popcorn, fruit, cheese and fizzy drinks, and listening to the children toot their noisy horns. Then we came home to put them to bed! We filled in the time til midnight watching a movie (about Jane Austen's life in England), stopping in time to kiss when the ball came down in New York.

Happy New Year to you! Looking forward to seeing your creatures in 2012.
Julie

Layanee said...

It is grand to hear of your traditions. Here, New Year's Eve is often celebrated with good friends and cheers. Cleaning continues the next day after the party.

Jan@Thanks for today. said...

Happy New Year, Shirl! Traditions are certainly interesting, and varied--depending on where we live. I hope to get over more often to read your blog posts in 2012. It's been too long since I've visited. It sure is nice to see all the bird activity you have going on...and catch up a bit. I see you are as busy as ever in your garden with the wildlife, etc...and that's a good thing. I'm sending lots of good wishes to you in 2012 and beyond;-)

Juliet said...

Happy new year, Shirl!

Cleaning outside windows? In December? Brrrr!

Though thinking about it, you'd be very welcome to come and do ours ... I don't think we've done them for over a year and it's getting hard to see out :-[

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Shirl, Happy New Year! I hope your garden brings peace and bounty in 2012. I also hope you weren't too adversely affected by the weather yesterday. I have friends in Scotland, and the wind left them with a hole in a their roof!

shirl said...

Hi everyone and thanks for all your comments over this busy time of the year :-)

Lisa, I’m delighted you enjoyed this post and I loved hearing about your traditions. Ah… DB with his dark hair sounds a perfect first foot. Wishing you both all the very best for 2012 :-)

Janet, at a guess the people that get wasted would be doing that at the weekend anyway. I guess growing up in a small village gives a different view on New Year where people were good neighbours and traditions meant more. My grandmother, Aunts and Uncles were living in Edinburgh at that time and they just stayed at home even then. I guess it’s the PR that has made Edinburgh the place to be. This year, we had both neighbours and family pop in to us after the bells. These traditions will go if we let them. That is sad. Thanks, all our best wishes to you too :-)

Sue, yes they do but as Janet says above not in all areas of Scotland. More than half in my own street would have just gone to bed. As I also say to Janet, if we want to keep these traditions we need to keep them going. Lol… I’m not kidding you.. that cleaning thing really is one that will stick with me. It usually involves changing all beds too. I rebelled there this year ;-)

YRVG, Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed this. Sending our best wishes to you for 2012 :-)

Anna, Thanks, civilised is an interesting way to think of this mad prep for the New Year. Another thing that is usually done is all debts paid. Lol… there will be many an uncivilised party going on too. I remember as a student taking in the New Year with my flatmate in her home town in Inverness. We went out at 6pm and I was told we would be out all night and get breakfast in the last house. We were and we did - she had a lot of friends and family!

Lona, Thanks, like in all countries there will be different traditions in different areas. As said above by Janet, not everyone follows those traditions. I’m glad we do even though it’s just a little bit. This way, at the very least my daughters will remember them too. Thanks – hope you have a good one :-)

John, Thanks, I didn’t realise the coal was given in London too. Yes, it is the dark hair that’s thing here too. That of course can be a tad harder with all the many ginger tones we have up here. Thanks wishing you further good health in 2012 and here’s hoping Bobby makes a recovery that gives him a happy dog’s life in 2012 :-)

shirl said...

Hi everyone and thanks for all your comments over this busy time of the year :-)

Lotusleaf, Thank-you! Thanks for sharing your tradition too – it sounds a lovely one. Wishing you all our very wishes for you and your friends and neighbours on the 14th :-D

Paul, Thanks and to you too. Many women here in Scotland do enjoy a Scotch but I can’t stand the smell of it. I’ll virtually cheers you with a… it's morning so it will need to be coffee. Seing its you, I'll make it full caffeine and not decaf as usual ;-)

David, Thanks, I love to hear of traditions of other parts of the UK (and around the world) too. Taking a look at your party group last year I’m taking a guess that you were in the company of very good friends when the bells brought in the new year – wonderful :-D

Julie, It was a yummy evening – lol when I finally sat down! Sounds yummy at you party too! Ah horns not a bother here. Since the new millennium celebrations it is fireworks that go off here (forgot to mention that). In households party poppers started appearing there too. Wishing you a Good Year and hoping I’ve plenty new creatures to entertain everyone :-D

Layanee, Thanks, sounds good fun with you too. Yep… that cleaning just doesn’t stop does it? Hope you had a great time :-)

Jan,Thanks and a Happy New Year to you too Jan! I like the fact that traditions vary from area to area. Blog hopping has been difficult for me too this past year. When I did have time I didn’t seem to get round everyone then I didn’t have time and couldn’t face going near my blog (when my husband was ill). A new year, a new start as you’ve said – see you soon :-)

Juliet, Thanks – and best wishes to you too! Brr indeed! I was hanging on the ledge of an upstairs window at one point! Lol… sorry my ladder won’t reach that far ;-)

Clare, Thanks and a Happy New Year to you too! Perhaps I’ll get my much talked about wildlife pond done this year. Oh dear… hope your friends don’t have difficulty in getting someone out to repair their roof. Sadly we do have roof damage (2 places) too. I’m hoping someone can look at it today. Last week (more wild winds) our boundary fence snapped at 2 posts. We began to repair it only to find absolutely massive lumps of concrete. Plan B is to add more on top to get a surface to drill metal post grips to. That will take time to harden off first. Using temp supports at the moment (neighbour has dogs). Thank goodness it survived yesterday! I found myself driving yesterday and the roads were eerily quiet of traffic probably due to major bridge closures. Not a nice drive.