Happy New Year
After the festive gatherings of family and friends, many of the normal routines are being resumed and in a couple of days the tinsel and other decorations will be packed away for another year. Some of you may be engaging in one more celebration, burning your Christmas trees on 12th Night – I gather they’re quite keen on this in the Philippines. There are a whole variety of traditions associated with this time of year, some that have been around for centuries and some more recent. (And personally, I hope the daft retail behaviour associated with ‘Black Friday’ will NOT become a fixed event in our calendar !). I have always been a sucker for carols and love the world famous traditional service of Nine Lessons & Carols broadcast every year from Kings College in Cambridge.
Here in Scotland it is Hogmanay, the celebrations associated with the turn of the year, which we make the most of. The roots of this festival are a bit lost in the mists of time and of course have evolved but in large part it’s due to the influence of the Vikings who held sway in the North of Scotland, particularly in the Hebrides and the Shetland Islands, when they arrived in the 8th and 9th centuries. Our celebrations over the New Year are derived from their marking of the Winter Solstice or Yule. Christmas as a festival was not celebrated in Presbyterian Scotland and indeed was not recognised as a holiday until the late 1950s / early 1960s. However, now children in Scotland look forward to the arrival of Santa Claus as much as children from anywhere. Part and parcel of Hogmanay of course is the tradition of ‘ First-Footing ‘; in being the first visitor of the year to your neighbour you were to bring various gifts, including perhaps a silver coin to bless the household with prosperity and a lump of coal to put on the fire, not forgetting your whisky to share a dram. This is certainly still something you can witness, especially in rural Highland communities.
So, here’s to a healthy, prosperous and peaceful year in 2016 !