Romy Gemmell: Christmas & Hogmanay in Scotland

It is my great pleasure to welcome to Rita Bay’s Blog author Romy Gemell who will share some of the holiday traditions of her Scottish homeland. Romy’s first historical novel, DANGEROUS DECEIT, set in Regency England, was published by Champagne Books in Canada in May 2011. DANGEROUS DECEIT is available in e-book and print from: http://champagnebooks.com and available from http://www.amazon.com (and co.uk) for kindle, or from http://www.smashwords.com for other e-readers. 

Her first tween novel, SUMMER OF THE EAGLES, which is set in Scotland, is being published by MuseItUp Publishing in Canada in March 2012 (as Ros). She also writes short stories and articles, many of which are published in national magazines.

     Many traditions celebrated in Scotland and other parts of Britain over the Christmas period have their origins in pagan times. At one time, decorations were simple holly, ivy and mistletoe brought in from the gardens and fields, all significant symbols of pre-Christian times. Christmas was banned during the 16th century when the Puritans took power, and only became really popular again in Victorian times.

     Most churches celebrate Advent, in the four weeks leading up to Christmas, then on Christmas Eve we attend a carol service or Midnight Mass late in the evening to welcome the birth of the Christ child. The giving of gifts varies between families. Most children (and adults too sometimes) hang up their stocking on Christmas Eve, in the hope that Father Christmas will fill it with trinkets, fruits and nuts. We then give and receive other gifts in the morning.

     At the main Christmas dinner, goose and turkey have always been traditional fare, with all the trimmings of stuffing, mini sausages wrapped in Bacon, Brussels sprouts and parsnips, bread sauce and cranberry sauce.  The traditional Christmas pudding is usually made a month or two before Christmas, accompanied by ‘the stirring of the pudding’, an old custom. Each person in the house takes a turn of stirring the mixture and making a wish.

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is more celebrated than in the rest of the UK, with the partying, drinking and dancing going on for several days. 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!       Romy Gemell

Website: www.rosemarygemmell.com

General writing/information blog: http://ros-readingandwriting.blogspot.com

Romancing History blog: http://romygemmell.blogspot.com

Children’s writing blog: http://rosgemmell.blogspot.com

Twitter: @rosemarygemmell

Thank you so much, Romy, for visiting.  Tomorrow, A Discovery.  Rita Bay

2 Comments

Filed under Holiday Celebrations

2 responses to “Romy Gemmell: Christmas & Hogmanay in Scotland

  1. Thank you for having me on your blog, Rita! A very Happy New Year to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s