‘Lang may yer lum reek’ (May you always have fuel for your chimney/hearth – good health to you this year)
New Year, no one seems to have a bigger party than the Scots. Even if you don’t go out, you either have a few friends round, or even if your in on your own – turn on the TV and there’s aye Jools Holland and his Hootenany to fill up your house!
It would be impossible to unravel all the roots find a single source for Hogmanany, there are many, some digging down deep than others – which gives us all the more to choose from.
‘There are many theories about the derivation of the word “Hogmanay”. The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was “Hoggo-nott” while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) “hoog min dag” means “great love day”. Hogmanay could also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning. But the most likely source seems to be the French. “Homme est né” or “Man is born” while in France the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged was “aguillaneuf” while in Normandy presents given at that time were “hoguignetes”. Take your pick!’ Taken from rampartscotland.com
Many root deep down to a time before calendars gave us months and an old year dying at the end of December. Parts of Scotland were under Norse rule (roughly 8th – 15th centuries) and while you might think that many names of mountains and place names on maps are gaelic, but in fact they’re in Norse. We have records that in Scotland the vikings sailed down the river Leven (from Loch Lomond) on route to Alt Clut (Dumbarton Castle), the medieval capital of the ancient capital of Strathclyde. The Vikings brought us Yules, which if you lived even further north you might celebrate Yule with a little more fire and celebration! I have lots of Scottish friends who have Viking blood, blue eyes and blonde hair. There’s often claims at this time of year that the great Viking fire festival of this time of year, Up Helly Aa in Shetland refuted to being nothing but a Victorian invention, and sure the first Up Helly Aa took place in Lerwick in 1881, but before that there were other fire festivals such as tar barrelling, rolling barrels of tar set on fire, flaming wildly down the streets. But the Vikings were in Shetland since the first century and I bet those Vikings partied at the symbolic return of the sun.
Some might say Up Helly Ah, now a Hogmanay celebration in Edinburgh is just pure fantasy and all for show but really i feel that modern embellishment of traditions underpins a needs rooted in the now for growth and transformation. We need all the grounded inspiration we can muster!
And yeah but why such a big hogmanay party?
With the protestant reformation the Kirk considered christmas a Catholic festival and so it was banned! There was no christmas holiday and so you’d celebrate all the more come New Year.
Fire. Way down at those roots it’s all about fire. Wither it’s welding giant fireballs in Stonehaven it’s all symbolism of the growing energy of the just born sun. Purifying your community from evil spirits. Like new year resolutions or toasts such as Auld lang syne we’re leaving all behind us in the old year we don’t want following us into the new. The light and the fire hold the hope and promise that the new year will bring. Intentions are powerful things.
In Scotland there’s the tradition of ‘first footing’ where traditionally you’d welcome a tall dark haired male into your home – he being the first guest over the threshold on this new year, it was said that blonde haired men weren’t welcomed the same, harking back to VIking raiders who weren’t warmly welcomed. This first footer would bring a gift such as coal, symbolically signifying a wish that your home always be warm and welcoming. A black bun (fruitcake) or shortbread symbolises an offering wishing that you never go hungry, a coin symbolises prosperity and whisky, well whisky is never refused! And the greenery the first footer would bring would represent a far older tradition with the Holly king and the giant Gogmagog. The wildman element stretches back to primeval wildness, and that’s a whole other tale.
Rowan branches placed above door brought good luck, burning Juniper throughout the house helped purifify the space allowing the new year to enter. Read more about this here by Erynn Rowan Laurie.
So while Samhain is the new year of my soul, a time to dream as we enter into the darkness, this new year is the practical one – the one for the head before the hands get busy in new and inspiring work.
So happy new year – however you celebrate! May all manner of insights and magic unfold for you!