Hogmanay Is Here!

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Hogmanay Is Here!

Post by Currie » Thu Dec 31, 2020 11:34 am

Hogmanay is here!

And here also is a selection of stories from the newspapers. If you don’t know what it is now is your chance to find out. There’s also a secret sowens recipe. If you don’t know what that is just read on.

Dundee Courier, Sunday, December 31, 1930

And The Mystery Of Its Origin

“HOGMANAY” is rather a puzzle—the word, I mean.
Where does it come from and what does it signify?
I hasten to reject the derivation which says that Hogmanay originated with a festive Scot who got so much overcome on the last day of the year that he could utter nothing but “Hooch, man, ay!”

Little Better.

But very little better is the suggestion that the word comes from the Saxon for Holy Month with reference to the Christmas season, or from certain French words which mean “Lead to the mistletoe.” We don't need to be led when there is sufficient inducement underneath.
Another notion is that it is “Hog Month,” because at that time of the year people were accustomed to kill their pigs for winter feeding.

A Mystery.

Away with all these derivations; let us class Hogmanay, along with the haggis, as a mystery. In Scotland the 31st December used to begin the New Year festivities. Festive Scots, taking time by the forelock, determined to miss none of such a fleeting opportunity.
In a certain Northern parish a worthy old parish minister used to go round his flock on Hogmanay wishing them the compliments of the season. He always took an elder with him for support—not in the physical sense, of course, though that might not have been quite unnecessary, since at each farmhouse there was a friendly dram.

The Test.

Towards the afternoon the good man began to have qualms as to their condition. By that time they were not far from the church, so the minister proposed that they should go in to have a test.
Mounting the pulpit he said, “Do you hear me, John?” “Oh, ay, I hear ye fine.” “Do you see me?” “Oh, ay, but wha’s that in the pulpit alang wi’ ye?”
Then the minister thought it was time to close these Hogmanay celebrations.

Not Frightened.

Many pranks used to be played on Hogmanay Night. In a remote village some young men got up a hoax in connection with the village kirkyard. It chanced that a village worthy called Tam Pennycook was making his way home on the stroke of twelve after a festive evening, and like Tam o’ Shanter in similar circumstances was somewhat apprehensive as to his reception.
For Tam had a wife with an exceedingly violent temper, and if she had been nursing her wrath all this time to keep it warm he judged that it must be far over boiling point by now. As he was passing the kirkyard an awesome figure popped up over the wall and an impressive voice said in hollow tones, “I am the King of Terrors!’’
“Are ye, man?” said Tam Pennycook cheerfully. “Gie’s a shak’ o’ your hand. I have lived for thirty year wi’ the Queen o’ them.”

First Footing.

When Hogmanay Night was almost gone, young men started on first footing expeditions. The lucky first foot was supposed to be a dark man, this not being one of the occasions when gentlemen (and ladies) prefer blondes.
A fair-haired young man, wishing to commend himself to the girl of his heart, resorted to dyeing his hair with ink, but it was a wet night, and when, after a kiss at the door, the young couple went into a company of assembled friends, their faces cried aloud for explanation.

Good Resolutions.

Then there are the good resolutions appropriate to the New Year time, but apparently to that time only. On the stroke of twelve you take out the diary for 1931, presented to you at Christmas by Aunt Jane, and write them down:—

Get up earlier in the morning.
Never run for the train.
Have a cold bath every morning.
Do some serious reading, beginning with — This is not finished, because you can’t think what you should begin with. There are Darwin's “Origin of Species” or Gibbons’ “Decline and Fall,” but it does not matter much, anyway; you won't read either of them.
Be better friends with my mother-in-law.

Then the clock strikes and you jump up and wish everybody a Happy New Year and many of them!
—Ian Farquhar.

Aberdeen Journal, Saturday, May 5, 1900


Sir, — The intelligence that the gallant defenders of Mafeking have sought to avert starvation by having recourse to sowens has interested me greatly, and I have read the comments in your columns upon the method of preparing and cooking sowens. After doing so, I set off to the house of a chatty old lady who may fairly be regarded as an expert, and who has treated me to the finest sowens I have ever tasted. Here are her remarks and her recipe, which, it will be seen, differs somewhat from that of “Old Lady”:—Sowens, of course, come from “sids.” The “sids’’ are the husks of the oats removed while they are going through the process of shieling [Anglice, shelling] at the mill. A certain amount of flour adheres to the husks. This flour constitutes the sowens when prepared after a certain process. The process is as follows:—Put the “sids” into a large jar or wooden barrel and cover with cold water, stirring them well up. Let them stand for three days till they are well soured or begin to ferment. They must then be poured out into a large sieve set over a tub to receive the contents. Rinse out the “sids,’’ and let the sowens fall into the tub below. Let them settle in the tub until the sowens have all settled at the bottom. Pour off that water and stir them up with clean water. Then pass them through a wire or hair search. The sowens must then stand other three days before being ready for use; if used earlier, they are bitter to the taste.

Drinking sowens are cooked much in the same way in which one makes starch. Let the water in the pot boil, and stir in sowens quickly till they come to the proper degree of thickness, when they must be immediately withdrawn from the fire, else they will get into knots and be practically miscooked. Season with a pinch of salt and plenty of golden syrup.

To make boiled sowens, much less sowens are required. They must be put on the fire very thin. Keep constantly stirring, and boil for quarter of an hour. Add a little salt, and dish them hot, with plenty of good, creamy milk along with them.

It was the universal custom up to about 40 years ago in the farm houses in the north of Scotland to have drinking sowens at Auld Yule. They were made in a huge pot at midnight, and everyone, old and young, had to partake of them. After the household had been supplied, two huge pails were filled, and went the round of the cottar houses. A man, carrying a lantern, and a woman, with yoke on her shoulders and carrying two pails, distributed the sowens to the cottar folks, all of whom had to take a supply. Anyone refusing to accept the sowens, or anyone who had incurred the dislike of his or her neighbours, was rather rudely treated. A young man, armed with a white-washing brush and carrying a pail of sowens, bespattered the doors and windows of the offending parties, much excellent and nourishing sowens being thus put to waste. It may be added that at these festive proceedings, sowens were not the only liquid in evidence. Whisky was largely consumed along with the sowens.
— Yours, etc., OLIVER TWIST.

Dundee Courier, Wednesday, December 31, 1949

Imagine First-footing In March

Fancy Hogmanay in the last weeks of March!
Strange as it may seem, the new year has not always started on January 1. At various times it has begun on December 25, March 25, Easter, and January 1.
In the Middle Ages the Christian year began generally on March 25, until the adoption by the Catholic nations of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when January 1 became New Year’s Day. Poland followed in 1586, and Hungary in 1587.
In Scotland, New Year’s Day was March 25 from 527 until 1600.
The change was made by an Act of Privy Council passed at Holyrood, which stated that

“in all other well-governit commonwealths and countries the year begins yearly upon the first of January, commonly called New Year’s Day, and that this realm only is different frae all others in the count and reckoning of the years.”

Henceforth, Scotland came into line and January 1, 1600, marked the beginning of the “new look” New Year.

Lost Days.

In this respect Scotland was far ahead of England, which used both December 25 and March 25 from the sixth century to 1066; January 1 until 1155, then March 25 till the day after December 31, 1751, which became January 1, 1752.
To bring about this change, an Act of Parliament was passed eliminating 11 days between September 2 and 14. thus bringing the country into line with the rest of Western Europe.
The reform was not without incident—mobs parading the streets accused the Government of stealing 11 days from them.
The different “years” had naturally led to confusion. A Scottish writer gave the date of the execution of King Charles I as 1649, while an Englishman described it as in 1648. Both agreed to the month and day, but the Scotsman’s year began in January 1 and his contemporary’s in March.

Coin On Doorstep.

Many strange customs and superstitions have arisen round Hogmanay and New Year.
In olden days in the Highlands nobody entered his neighbour’s house and asked for a light on New Year's Day. Bad luck was sure to follow the owner if he allowed fire to be carried out of his house.
Similarly, no one entered a friend’s house empty-handed.
Nevertheless, the modern custom of dashing frantically from house to house on Hogmanay with cake, red herrings, or bottles of whisky was quite unknown to the Celt.
On the last night of the year he placed his smallest silver coin on his doorstep. If it was still there in the morning he knew he would be prosperous for a year; but if it were amissing he expected poverty to haunt the year.

House Cleaning

Nowadays, despite austerity and the absence or scarcity of such items as black bun, shortbread, cheese, &c., Hogmanay is still celebrated as enthusiastically as ever.
The housewives rub and scrub to make sure the New Year does not begin with the old year’s dirt, and red herrings and other favours are an indispensable part of a first-footing expedition.
Some families still cling to the rules of former days. Anyone out late on Hogmanay must not return too soon after midnight lest he be the first-foot. Clocks and watches have to be wound up before twelve strikes.
Good luck is said to follow if the first foot is a man, in preference to a woman, and a dark one rather than a fair one. But they must not come empty-handed.
Young folk still go found asking for their Hogmanay, but seldom does one hear the once-familiar rhyme:—

Rise up, guidwife, and shake your feathers,
And dinna think that we are beggars,
For we are bairns come out to play—
Rise up and gie's our Hogmanay.

Rise up, guidwife, and beena sweer
To deal yer breid as lang’s ye're here.
The time will come when ye'll be deid,
And then need neither ale nor breid.

Aberdeen Journal, Friday, December 26, 1919


Since January 1, 4400 couples have been married “before the Sheriff” in Glasgow, compared with 2718 during 1918. Since last Saturday, 60 such marriages have been celebrated.

There is, however, still more than a week of the current year to run, and the 4400 high-water-mark is sure to be greatly exceeded before the arrival of New Year’s Day. Hogmanay is the favourite day for celebrating the civil marriage, and the already busy Sheriff Clerk’s staff is anticipating a big rush next week.

A peculiar feature of the Christmas marriages this year is the large proportion of shipyard employees who have chosen the unconventional method of tying the wedding-knot.

The war undoubtedly did much to popularise the “irregular” marriage, as uncertain spells of leave necessitated hasty arrangements, and the Sheriff Court offered a handy solution of a pressing problem.

The disquieting feature of the boom in “irregular” marriages to the conventional bride and bridegroom is that in the housing scramble first come first served will be the general rule.

In Edinburgh, also, something in the nature of a matrimonial boom has taken place this year. All records for the city have been broken.

The marriages recorded number 4689, representing an increase of nearly 1000 over the corresponding year, which, in turn, showed a considerable rise over the total for 1917.

The return to civil life of demobilised men accounts for a good many of the marriages, and another important factor in the situation has been the prosperity in the coalfields and industrial districts surrounding the city. This latter fact is largely responsible for an increase from 1248 to 1842 in the number of “irregular” marriages.

Evening Telegraph, Dundee, Wednesday,  December 28, 1892

(Cat is licking itself by the fireside, while wee Jeanie is getting ready for the New Year party.)
Jeanie—”Is the cat comin’ tae, mither?”
Mother—”Nonsense, lassie; whit pits that in yer heid?”
Jeanie—”I see’t brushin’ its claes.”
—The Bailie.

(Is anyone interested in cat stories? Cat stories were very popular in the Scottish newspapers, particularly Edinburgh, from about the 1880s. I could probably post a couple of dozen of these. They would be mainly about Scottish cats, though I may have to add some about sassanachcats, or even alien ditto, to make up the numbers. Note that the item above is not a cat story, it’s something else.)

Happy Hogmanay,

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Re: Hogmanay Is Here!

Post by WilmaM » Fri Jan 01, 2021 12:02 am

A Happy New Year to Talking Scotties Everywhere.
I'll be cracking open the Ginger Wine and shortie in about an hour.

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Re: Hogmanay Is Here!

Post by AndrewP » Fri Jan 01, 2021 1:02 am

Happy New Year to you all. :D


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Re: Hogmanay Is Here!

Post by SarahND » Fri Jan 01, 2021 11:15 am

[raise-glass] [scotland-flag]

Happy New Year! We have the great good luck to have our tall, dark-haired son in our household "bubble" who kindly agreed to be first foot, so here's hoping for a better 2021!



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Re: Hogmanay Is Here!

Post by Anne H » Fri Jan 01, 2021 12:39 pm

Happy New Year and Best wishes for a better 2021. =D>

As to the meaning of Hogmanay - when I was young I used to think it meant that all the people went around hugging each other because that's exactly what they did. Hug Many!


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Re: Hogmanay Is Here!

Post by nelmit » Thu Jan 07, 2021 8:33 pm

I like that idea a lot Anne. :lol:

Happy New Year everybody.

Awra best,

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Re: Hogmanay Is Here!

Post by Anne H » Thu Jan 07, 2021 11:07 pm

I like that idea a lot Anne. :lol:
The innocence of childhood, Annette! :D


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