In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is often more celebrated than in the rest of the UK, with the partying, drinking and dancing going on for several days. Edinburgh hosts the biggest street party in the world at this time. We call it Hogmanay and several traditions surround it even today. At one time, each housewife cleaned her home from top to bottom, ensuring we met the New Year as clean as possible. Although many of us don’t go to quite the same extremes now, we still do what we can. Having always lived near the River Clyde, we used to open the back doors at midnight to hear any ships on the river toot their horn to welcome the New Year.
One tradition that still thrives is the dancing. Many halls up and down the country host someone’s ceilidh, for our Scottish country dancing. The best have a live group with fiddles and accordion – the most toe-tapping sound you’re likely to hear all year! With energetic eightsome reels and dashing white sergeants, jigs and strathspeys, very few people sit still. And of course, most young men now wear the kilt even more than before, pleated tartan swinging at each turn. Enormous fun. For those at home, our television channels always bring us the evening’s entertainment from Glasgow or Edinburgh, with singing and Scottish dancing. As twelve o’clock approaches, the ‘bells’ are counted down until the stroke of midnight when we wish each other Happy New Year with a handshake, a kiss, and a toast.
But another old tradition must be observed if possible. Each home should have a ‘first footer’ – a tall, dark and handsome man as the first person to enter a house any time after midnight on Hogmanay. He should bring a lump of coal for luck (not so common now!) and some shortbread or cake. Anyone visiting homes over the New Year period will always take something for the host. And of course, it wouldn’t be Hogmanay without the necessary ‘wee dram’ of whisky to toast the New Year!
So I raise my virtual glass to wish everyone a happy, healthy and successful 2013.