Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….


Gracing our front cover: Up Helly Aa Vikings. Photo: VisitScotland.

January 2019 (Vol. 42, Number 07)

The Banner Says…

Starting the year off Scottish style

With the holiday vibe in full swing many people are extra busy in the lead up to January. Some may even consider January a quiet month to get over all the holiday cheer, not the Scots!

The month begins of course in full festive flair throughout Scotland with Hogmanay celebrations taking place across the country, as the clock strikes twelve, millions of Scots around the world celebrate ringing in the bells and throwing a party called Hogmanay.

You would then assume January 1st may be a quiet day for many? Well in Scotland a couple of great traditions take place that certainly are unique ways to start the year off. In South Queensferry outside of Edinburgh, over a 1000 people, many in fancy dress, plunge their bodies in the icy Firth of Forth to start their year. This great cause is not only a spectacle to be seen but raises funds for charity while soaking away any cobwebs from 2018, or perhaps the night before…

The Kirkwall Ba’

For those seeing the New Year in Orkney, an altogether different tradition takes places on January 1st. The Kirkwall Ba’ (which is also held on Christmas) is one of Orkney’s favourite traditions, with origins thought to go back to when Norse Vikings settled in Orkney. On New Year’s Day a mass football game takes place up and down the streets of Kirkwall in a very rough and tumble event that even the Vikings would be still proud of.

The Ba’ has two teams the Uppies and the Doonies, your team is judged by where someone is from.

If you were born to the north of the Cathedral you were a Doonie, with Uppies being those born to the south, or you play on the side that your father or grandfather did before you. Uppies and Doonies came from the term “Up the Gates” and “Doon the Gates”, from the old Norse word-gata, meaning road. A scrum involving hundreds of men and boys then erupts across the town as each team crushes and competes each other, with games lasting up to five hours or more, with apparently few injuries.

Currently this is a male dominated event, however in 1946 after the Second World War, a Women’s Ba’s took place for the first and only time, so far.

Not for everyone but these are just two examples of how Scots start the year off. Overseas Scots are also beginning the year off right with Highland Games on New Year’s Day in both New Zealand and Australia, as peak summer allows pipes and drums, Scottish dancers and Clans to gather in celebration of our culture and the year that lies ahead. With Highland Games also taking place later in the month in Florida for all those snowbirds to enjoy.

Burns Night

You cannot mention Scottish celebration in January without Robert Burns. Scotland’s Bard is celebrated and revered across the globe and this month thousands of people will attend Burns Suppers which have been taking place since 1801. Burns started his life as a poor tenant farmer and his creative and powerful poetry made him one of Scotland’s most important cultural icons.

Today Robert Burns is thought to generate £200m every year to the Scottish economy and Burns Supper’s celebrate not just the man and his work but his values and belief in justice and equality. From Scotland to the world, Burns Suppers will celebrate this great literary figure from Africa to America. Our events page includes some of great events taking place and hopefully you can take part whether it be at an informal at home event to one of the great many dinners taking place though January into February.

In this issue

Another uniquely Scottish tradition taking place this month is Shetland’s biggest fire festival, Up Helly Aa. This event though modern, also takes a nod to the island’s rich links to Shetland’s Viking heritage. Each year a month after Christmas the streets of Lerwick see hundreds of torch-carrying “guizers” lead a procession to burn a Viking longboat and light up the winter sky. The festival incorporates Norse traditions and celebrate Shetland’s Viking heritage.

While this month many will celebrate Robert Burns, in this issue we also look at those who helped shape the man. The bard’s family would certainly be instrumental in making Robert who he was and in turn part of the legacy that he left on Scotland. Robert Burns was one of seven children and those lives would have been interwoven as we look at Robert’s humble beginnings.

With 2019 upon us there is a great deal happening for those planning a trip back to Scotland. We have included some highlights of events taking place in both the piping world and across the tourism industry. Perhaps if you had been thinking of going back to Scotland, this may just convince you?!

Experience some Scottish culture this year

As you can see there is much going on this month for Scots. The best wee country in the world certainly starts the year off with a bang and 2019 looks to be another great year of events and celebration. Whether it be back in Scotland or closer to home I hope you can experience some Scottish culture this year, there is something on every month and the more we celebrate our culture the stronger our events and identity to it becomes.

All of us at the Scottish Banner wish you and yours the very best for 2019.

Will you be visiting Scotland or attending some Scottish events closer to home in 2019?  Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

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