Comments: A Secular Time

Not mentioned here, is a bizarre custom I remember related (~25 years ago?) by an African exchange student who spent New Year's in Scotland. Something about the "Darkest Person" (in any particular gathering) bringing good luck, and celebrated accordingly? [The African student was, as might be expected, the Darkest Person in every gathering he was in---though he said the Scots were at great pains to explain to him that this custom was NOT racist, and that plenty of native-born, "Mac-"named, dark-haired, brown-eyed Scots had acquired this title every year since time immemorial!]

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 31 December 2009 at 9:15am GMT

Query: what does the term Hogmansy mean? Where does it come from? The celebration sounds grand!
Columba Gilliss

Posted by Columba Gilliss at Thursday, 31 December 2009 at 2:10pm GMT

Thank you Rosemary for this comment. As an Englishman now living in Scotland, and my partners family Scots to their navel; what you say is so correct.

I get asked if today I will be hoovering the house etc. They look surprised when I say no, it will be done on its usual day. I hear the cry, but its New Year. So what! The calendar turns a day, a month, a year. Forget the church calendar, its only the secular calendars that matter. Every year to date we have had steak pie, and I love it. Always far too big, so big portions. But mother in law, Scots to her navel, doesnt like it, so we have to buy fish for her. This year we decided on Gammon, we can all eat the same. She complained wew had broken with tradition. Our reply, tis Gammon or nothing else. She is coming to lunch, and I,m faced by a Kg3 gammon.
Christmas is a much lesser feast, and traditional lunch goes out of the window, so daughter can get up late and cook the meal evetually. Had to ask to listen to Our Queen.

Never ask for mince pies , you will get meat pies. You must ask for mince meat pies, then you get mince pies.

But when all is back to normal, they are a bonny bunch.

Fr John

Posted by Fr John E. Harris-White at Thursday, 31 December 2009 at 4:22pm GMT

My father (Glaswegian Celtic supporter) with his raven black, glossy (Brylcreem)hair and swarthy complexion was always the one to "first foot" our neighbours on January 1st - bearing a lump of coal I remember ...... was that his own addition?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 31 December 2009 at 5:14pm GMT

Yes, the tallest darkest person should cross the threshold first. It is a compliment to be asked to do so - they bring in luck for the whole year. Coal is traditional, though few do it now. However, few wil go empty handed to a house for the first visit of the new year. 'A wee minding' or hansel is the correct thing. Needs only be something simple.

My tongue-in-cheek point is of course that it is a deeply religious festival, celebrating what is in effect a sacrament close to baptism and to penitence.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 31 December 2009 at 5:38pm GMT

Fascinating article, Rosemary, thank you! A light-hearted approach to what is very serious to many.

Posted by trish lindsay at Friday, 1 January 2010 at 11:45am GMT

One thing about your refreshing article, Rosemary on the place of Hogmanay in Scottish tradition; how come you are a Scot - "partially by birth and partially by adoption"? Now which part of you was born there, and which part became Scottish by adoption? In other words: does haggis nourish the brain or the body?

Only joking, Rosemary. Have a Guid Noo Year!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 1 January 2010 at 10:30pm GMT

Martyn - the carrying of a piece of coal was quite widespread. In the North East when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s it was tradition that first-footing was done by the tallest male, equipped with a piece of coal and a piece of silver; he brought greetings of peace to the household and greeted the occasion with a glass of malt.

When I reached the height necessary I found myself freezing in the street at midnight, waiting for Big Ben and nodding amiably to all the neighbouring first-footers on identical missions.

My father's addition (I think it was his own invention) was that before the greeting, his first words of the New Year had to be 'Rabbits and Alligators'. I've now taken to doing this with absolutely no inkling of why it should be so. There's a sermon in there somewhere, I think ...

Posted by Rev Jonathan Jennings at Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 9:25am GMT

My mother was an ex-pat Scot, and I was brought up with a strong sense of my Scots heritage - therefore I went to St Andrews Uni and stayed on having married a Scot, and rearing five children in Scotland.

AFIK one should say 'RABBIT' at the start of every month, and the correct response is 'hare'. I have kn idea why. the hare, of course, lives in the moon ......

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 3:05pm GMT

The carrying in of the lump of coal is widespread in Northern Ireland as well, as befits our hybrid culture where New Year's Eve is a bigger event than in England but sits as a secular counterpoise to Christmas rather than eclipsing it as with our cousins across the North Channel. We also do the heavy drinking part pretty well.

Odd thoughts this year, when my 32nd New Year's Eve on this planet was the first spent away from home, in that rather strange country immediately to the southwest...

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 2:35am GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.