Hogmany or New Year’s Eve

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New Year’s Eve is a liminal time- a great time to read the omens for the upcoming year. In Scotland they call it Hogmanay, and really get into the traditions! They have bonfires, and make sure their houses are clean for the new year- they call it “redding”. There was also a technique of divination from the ashes when cleaning the chimney- I’d love to learn that technique! After that comes “saining”, blessing everything with holy water from a local stream. After the blessing with water, the woman of the house was supposed to go from room to room with a smoldering juniper branch, filling the house with purifying smoke.

“First Footing” is a custom whereby whoever first enters your house is supposed to predict whether you’ll have good or bad luck during the year. A practical people, the Scots are known for prearranging the right sort of person to arrive. The best luck comes from a dark haired man, bringing food, drink and fuel with him, (right food first across the threshold, of course!) for which he is rewarded with money and drinks. Some young dark haired men will set up a route to hit as many houses as they can during the wee hours of the first! Women and redheads are unlucky portents.


This is a grand night in Scotland with different towns coming up with different foolhardy practices, from burning the claive (a tar soaked barrel), to dressing like Vikings (as at Uphellya), Swinging around heavy flaming balls (extreme fire-spinning), or jumping in freezing water for charity (then warming up by a bonfire).

Elsewhere in the world, others do slightly less dangerous good luck rituals, like jumping off chairs at midnight, or (obsolete) throwing chipped crockery at your friends doors- the more broken crockery around your door in the morning, the better), or stuffing 12 grapes in your mouth in Spain, or kissing your sweetheart. (In Venice there’s a Kiss-a-thon in St. Mark’s Square.)

Have fun, and remember, spend the time during the crossing from one year to the next as you want the next year to go.

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