Well, it's that time of year again and most Scots think that nobody celebrates Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) quite like us.
It's come a long way from the frankly, cringe making "White Heather Club", Andy Stewart et al that I grew up with. And some of the traditions aren't as popular as they once were.
Christmas until recently was not celebrated in Scotland. The winter Solstice holiday and the giving of presents happened at the New Year. Many Scots worked at Christmas until about the 1950s.
The Hogmanay traditions included cleaning your hoose (house) before the New Year. Nobody visited family, friends or neighbours until after the bells at Midnight, known in these parts as "first footing". With a bit of luck your first foot would be tall dark stranger (very unfairly women and redheads need not apply). George Clooney would just about fit the bill. I wonder if he has our address?
George would be bearing symbolic gifts in the form of whisky...
a lump of coal...
and a piece of black bun (that's a rich fruit cake)
Hogmanay in Scotland and in particular in Edinburgh is a big event and many tourists flock there for the torchlit procession (a throwback to Pagan times) Hogmanay concerts and fireworks. The growth of street parties has mirrored the decline in first footing locally. After the bells are rung to bring in the New Year everyone joins in the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" by Rabbie Burns.
Looks a bit crowded down there. I can't believe we used to be in there somewhere a few years back.
Another big night is in Stonehaven up the coast on the way to Aberdeen where they have a fireball Festival at Hogmanay. A few chosen townsfolk carry giant fireballs, weighing up to 20 pounds and birl (swing) them round their heads before eventually throwing them into the harbour. It's quite a sight.
The origin of the pre-Christian custom is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice of late December with the fireballs signifying the power of the sun.
So wherever you're bringing in the New Year.....Siante! (Cheers!)