New year traditions weird and wonderful

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By Lorne MacFarlane

Did you know that the New Year was not always celebrated on January 1?

New Year used to be celebrated on January 14 in the Gregorian calendar. In fact, the date is still celebrated in Gaelic-speaking areas of the Outer Hebrides, such as South Uist.

Some of these old Hebridean traditions may come as a shock to the younger generations of Scotland.

On Oidhche Chullaig (Hogmanay), children would sing a rhyme to gain entry to each home which translates to ‘tonight I come visiting you, to renew for you the year.’ Just how today’s children would be if asked to do such a thing is anyone’s guess.

One boy would carry the breast strip of a sheep dipped in wax and tallow, which would be freshly lit in the house fire. It was then passed round the inhabitants, who would cross themselves and circle the candle round their head three times. If the flame went out, the person would not survive the year.

Such traditions are slightly different to waiting on the bells to ring from the television before watching fireworks from across the country.

But how does the rest of the world celebrate the New Year?

In China, New Year can fall in either January or February. Each year a different zodiac animal is celebrated. The Chinese New Year for 2018 will occur on February 16 and will be the year of the dog.

In Spain, one of the biggest New Year traditions is to eat one grape on each of the chimes of the last twelve seconds of the year. If you manage to fit the grapes in your mouth by midnight, you will enjoy good luck for the entire year.

In Ecuador, they bring in the New Year by burning paper-filled scarecrows at midnight as well as photos from that year – all for good fortune.

In Ireland, an unusual tradition some people carry out is throwing bread at the wall to get rid of evil or negative spirits.

In Panama, people hold money in their hand at midnight to ensure they will have money for the New Year.

Some Scottish traditions have changed in the last decade or two. Not so long ago people would ‘first foot’ around the houses, taking with them a lump of coal for luck. The first person to enter a house after midnight on Hogmanay would be the first foot. Ideally this would be a dark-haired man.

Food such as black bun or shortbread would be carried. And maybe even a dram too.

But traditions change, and nowadays the Hogmanay steak pie is something to look forward to. But you would be advised to book well in advance, such is the demand.

Lorne is a sixth year pupil at Lochgilphead High School and has been on work experience at the Argyllshire Advertiser.


The steak pie has usurped black bun as Scotland’s favourite New Year food. a01_SteakPies01