January 2017 (Vol. 40, Number 7)
The Banner Says…
Superstitions and the New Year-Bringing some old stories alive from long, long, ago
As Scots, we are a pretty superstitious crowd. I know many people, myself included, who cannot stand watching someone stirring their tea (or coffee) with a knife. Heaven forbid they should put a pair of new shoes on the table – in spite of the fact that old ones are OK. In fact if you put new shoes on the table at New Year – the chances are great that you will split with your spouse or sweetheart within twelve months – a story I was told many years ago but which I have long since forgotten from who, is based on an old Scottish saying.
Speaking of shoes, remember that you must not put your left shoe on first – for if you do, you will hear bad news before midnight says another old Scots saying.
Needless to say, walking under a ladder is something nobody in their right mind ever does, and if a picture falls off your wall, duck for cover. It too is a sign of bad luck! If a mirror in your home breaks – there is even more bad news- you have seven years of bad luck heading your way should this happen to you.
Just last month (December), somebody here in the office hung a January 2017 calendar on the wall. As soon as it was seen – it was quickly and discreetly moved (I thought everyone knew not to hang the following year’s calendar up prior to the old year being over).
Being more than a little superstitious myself, I was interested to read some of the Scottish superstitions surrounding the New Year and I wanted to pass some of these on to our readers.
Do not wash clothes on New Year’s Day. To do so washes a member of the family away – which causes death on the ‘hoose’.
Sweeping the house at New Year brings bad luck as the broom sweeps away good fortune- and therefore all that is good from the home throughout the rest of the year.
On the other hand if you partied a wee bit too much at Hogmanay and got a wee bit too ‘merry’ it is perfectly alright to stay in bed the next morning – for as long as you like. Staying tucked up under the sheets ensures a safe and prosperous New Year – according to Scots tradition.
Yet if your lover has jilted you – now is the time to get your revenge! Scots tradition says that jilted lovers can get their own back by giving the faithless swain a ‘good whipping’ during the hour before midnight.
This is also right when a wife is allowed to throw a bucket of water over an annoying husband. He, on the other hand, is not allowed to reciprocate until the following day. Drinking, eating black bun, performing the old fertility rite of kissing and singing Auld Lang Syne are all a part of Scottish tradition.
New Year’s Day
To go ‘first-footing’ or perhaps, going to a friends or neighbours house with a traditional lump of coal (to keep the fires burning), a piece of shortbread to eat in the hoose, and a wee dram to sip with it – are all part of celebrating the Hogmanay in Scotland.
In the old days in Edinburgh, the first person to walk over the threshold of a house carried an evergreen branch. This was a symbol of everlasting life. This first person was then expected to go directly to the fire with the evergreen branch, stir the dying embers then turning to greet the entire household.
It was not until the 1600’s that in Scotland New Year’s Day was transferred from March 25th to the more logical January 1st. This caused New Year’s day to fall on the ‘Daft Days’ otherwise known as the twelve days of Christmas. This also coincides with the mid-winter festival of Yule, which heralds when the sun-gods returned from exile – bringing longer days to our planet with them.
Yet we must also remember our Burns Night on the 25th of January. Robert Burns is still remembered everywhere. During past evenings of these we have often had our own evenings of fun on this particular evening, and whilst I have never been a part of the attractions at these events, I have certainly hosted numerous amounts of Burns Nichts both here in the US as well as in Canada while I was still living there. I was gratified in having numerous full houses, for the Burns Night events I hosted and always closed them with numerous thanks for many people who helped put on a great evening.
These are extremely creative events and I certainly enjoyed them. I no longer host them – yet will be attending one on the evening of a Burns Nicht taking place near us. I hope you will all do the same, as this is such a very special Scottish event, and I believe we are fortunate to have these.
Yes, we certainly do have some very special occasions to look forward to. Let us add to each one by supporting those who work so hard at putting these Scots events on. After being so involved in so many of them during the past, I know from experience they are very worthwhile and fun events to help with.
Lang may yer lum reek
Whatever you have lined up for your New Year, or your Burns Night, may it be an overwhelming success. And may your 2017 be the same – it is a very special time of the year for Scots. And our very best wishes to you and yours throughout these dazzling and giddying times of the year.
From all of us here at the Banner to all our friends and readers worldwide may you have good luck and good health throughout the coming year ahead or as the Scots Hogmanay saying goes, “lang may yer lum reek” (lum = chimney, reek = smoke). Literally meaning ‘long may your chimney smoke’, or we wish you well and a long and healthy life.
Do you have any New Year superstitions you grew up with or still follow today? If so please share with us your family tradition or superstition.