Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”
The above words are likely familiar to most of us, as they have somehow become the official welcome to the new year, along with noisemakers, confetti and kissing when applicable.The words were first published in 1788 by the Scottish poet Rabbie Burns.
But I grew up (in the U.S.) with another tradition: First Footing. Have you heard of it? What about Hogmanay?
The Scots' devotion to celebrating the new year with such intensity can be blamed on Presbyterianism. John Knox and his Reformation was adamant about revoking Catholic customs (the papists!) and this included the celebration of Christmas. In fact, it wasn't until the 1950s that Christmas became an actual 'day-off-from-work' holiday. To make up for it, they celebrated the New Year with exuberance (and superstition)!
You might see something strange about tossing one group of practices for another, but it wasn't easy to shake off the old ways!
The tradition of first-footing varied across Scotland, its isles and the north of England, but demands a visitor--preferably dark-haired male--arrive after midnight, bearing gifts. These were various tokens of good-fortune:
a lump of coal, shortbread, a dram of whisky,
coins, salt, black bun, and more.
Preparation included taking out old things - like ash (Something I do daily this time of year--take out coal ash), sweeping the house, and even sending the head of the household out before the stroke of midnight.
The best scenario would be a dark-haired (and let's make him good-looking while we're at it!) visitor bearing gifts. Why dark hair? Those blond visitors known as Vikings brought nothing but bad luck in the seventh century!
Traditions change, and in some areas blond visitors are preferred, and the gifts are different.
Unfortunately, red-haired women were likely turned away!
When I was young, my grandfather would go outside, come back in and hand his wallet to his wife. Later on, we would just be glad if anyone came across the threshold.
In Scotland, however, neighbors helped neighbors celebrate, and Hogmanay is bigger than ever!
I have no doubt that our colonial ancestors from Scotland kept this New Year's tradition of first-footing. But how often it is practiced now? I'm hoping to hear from those in the Carolinas, and east New Jersey where so many Scots settled, and find out who is still celebrating.
Have you heard of first-footers, and do you celebrate?
So from me, and all of the authors at Colonial Quills, I offer this blessing for your new year:
Go dtuga Dia deoch duit as an tobar nach dtrann
May God give you a drink from the well that never runs dry!
And some shortbread from my house to yours!
Visit Amazon to learn more about my Amateur Sleuth cozy set in Scotland,