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Hogmanay Customs
Before the calendar change in the year 1660, Hogmanay was celebrated. It is known as Old Yule Night. However in 1752 the old style calendar was dropped in favour of the Continental calendar by the then British Government. People were forced to lose 11 days in September of that year to bring Britain into line with Europe. This then made New Years Day the 1st of January. People of Britain were most annoyed at losing 11 days and many still followed the old calendar and continued to celebrate New Year on the 11th of January.   The North East of Scotland has always been a fishing region and fishermen and fisher folk are a superstitious lot and this ceremony is only 1 of their fishing superstitions. They did the burning of the Clavie ceremony to ensure a successful fishing for the future year.  The Clavie would traditionally have been a herring barrel or later this was an iron hooped whisky barrel daubed with creosote. This is filled with wood shavings and tar and then nailed to a carrying post. The same nail was used each year.

During the day of Hogmanay the household would be busy cleaning so that the New Year could be welcomed into a tidy and neat house. It is considered ill luck to welcome in the New Year in a dirty uncleaned house. Fireplaces would be swept out and polished and some people would read the ashes of the very last fire of the year, to see what the New Year would hold. The act of cleaning the entire house was called the redding, i.e. getting ready for the New Year. 

Pieces from a Rowan tree would be placed above a door to bring luck. In the house would be placed a piece of mistletoe, not for kissing under like at Christmas, but to prevent illness to the householders. Pieces of holly would be placed to keep out mischievous fairies and pieces of hazel and yew which were thought to have magical powers and would protect the house and the people who lived in it. Juniper would be burnt throughout the house, then all the doors of the home would be opened to bring in fresh air. The house was then considered ready to bring in the New Year. 

Debts would be paid by New Year's Eve because it was considered bad luck to see in a new year with a debt. 

Any visitors who arrive before the chimes of midnight on New Year's Eve would have to be brought in or kept out  to prevent bad luck. At midnight the man of the house would open the back door to let the old year out and then open the front door of the house to let in the new year. The household would also make as much noise as possible to scare off evil spirits. In harbours throughout Aberdeenshire, at Aberdeen Harbour and throughout the North East Sea fishermen and sailors will sound their horns and these sounds carry for miles. 

Within minutes of the old year passing the house would erupt and the carpets would be rolled up and dancing and falling about drunk would commence.  The magic pristine state ideal was over when everything was spleet new  for the hour of Midnight.  The glass breakages, vomit and spilt drinks would relegate the former palace to a pig stye;  leaving one wondering why they bothered with the elaborate preparation and meticulous cleaning for so short an exposure of being seen to be very houseproud.  Only to do it all over again when sober in the cold light of New Years Day.

New Year Bells
The 1st stroke of the chimes at New Year is known as The Bells. People would sing Auld Lang Syne together whilst linking arms.  After the bells have rung and you have been first-footed people could go visiting friends and family, if no one knocked you had to wait patiently for a dark complexion visitor to place the first foot in your door. First-Footing would involve carrying a bottle of spirit such as whisky to offer people a new year dram or wee first footing presents for non drinkers or affa cannie folk wi nae drink. In olden days when people could only afford one bottle of spirit’s a year this bottle would take pride of place on the mantelpiece or by the fireplace and only opened at the stroke of midnight.   Bell's A'fore ye go - mad!

Hogmanay Toasts
As people wish each other a Happy New Year there are some hogmanay toasts that can be said. A traditional Scottish New Year toast is: 

Lang may yer lum reek! - (wi someone else's coal)
Which means long may your chimney smoke and originated when people had coal fires and if the chimney was smoking it meant that you could afford coal and keep warm. 


A guid New Year to ane an' a' and mony may ye see" 
Which translates to English from Scots as A good New Year to one and all, and many may you see. 

The Toast of Bon Accord:
Happy to meet, 
sorry to part. 
Happy to meet again! 

Hogmanay Fireball Ceremony Walkers & Swingers New Year Fire Festivals
Each Hogmanay between 45 - 60 people swing fireballs and walk through the High Street of Stonehaven towards the Harbour at the stroke of midnight. Spectators wore old clothes, as the fireballs get quite close during the parade.  After the procession, at about 12:30am the fireballs are thrown into the harbour, then the firework display at the Bervie Braes commences. Back at the market square, you can watch the fire jugglers.  Each Stonehaven fireball weighs about 16 pounds and is made of items such as wood, coal, old clothing, newspapers/cardboard and dried pine cones all packed into a wire frame then sprinkled with a wee bit of paraffin.  The Stonehaven fireball walkers can be traced back to local fishermen performing the ceremony in the 19th Century, though fireball ceremonies in general can be traced back to times before Christianity. The 1st Stonehaven fireball ceremony took place in 1907.  It is thought that the fire is symbolic to ward of evil spirits and to act as a cleanser. The movement of the fireball may have symbolised the path of the sun.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013