All countries have their own traditional ways of celebrating New Year’s Day and I thought you might enjoy learning about a few traditions unique to Scotland. While writing my Highland Healer Series, I found myself buried in fascinating research about this most intriguing country of my ancestry.
First Footing – January 1
After the bells have rung in the New Year, the Scots have a tradition called “First Footing” which is still practiced in some villages. Tradition has it that the “first foot” in the house after midnight should be male, dark, and handsome and should carry symbolic coal, shortbread salt, black bun (a spiced cake) and, of course, a bottle of scotch whisky. Surely there is something in that list that would appeal to all of us. Actually, at our house, my husband was the “first foot” through the door . . . and he met all those requirements!
New Year Ba’ Game
In one of the villages, Kirkwall, in Orkney, there is a New Year Ba’ Game, a football game (what we in the U.S. call soccer) that is held in the streets of the village and can last most of the day. The game is played in the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall and the two sides are the Uppies and the Doonies, or “Up-the-Gates” and “Doon-the-Gates.” Apparently the “gates” refer to a path or a road.
The game has grown in popularity in the last 50 years and now includes players from all areas of Orkney and is a tradition that started at least three centuries ago. Records from 1797 indicate that “football (soccer) is the prinicipal diversion of the common people, which they practise with great dexterity.”
Some historians believe the game in Kirkwall may have its roots in folklore based on the tale of Sigurd and the Orkeneyinga Saga. Sigurd is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, and is the central character in the Volsunga Saga. It’s quite an interesting tale wherein Sigurd (Sigmund) dies in battle when he attacks Odin. I’m surprised that anyone would cross Odin, but as I said, quite an interesting read.
Plunge in the Forth
This last tradition is one that I personally would forego! Near the Forth Rail Bridge at South Queensferry, apparently some brave souls leap off the bridge to plunge into the icy waters of the Firth of Forth in the Loony Dook. If they survive this event, I believe there is a quick trek to the nearest pub! This event, like most of them, are for good causes and usually raise funds for a variety of charities.
Living life to its fullest and being in the moment is admirable, but keeping traditions are our way of staying connected to our past and our peoples of long ago. They are part of our heritage.
As you can see in the image above, Scotland is beautiful in the winter—of course I think it’s beautiful any time. Imagine this as a scene from Highland Bloodline, the third novel in my Highland Healer Series which will launch on February 1st. (Feel like singing the Hallelujah Chorus!) You may pre-order it on Amazon . . . stay tuned for the link.
I hope you continue to enjoy my stories and may 2017 be a healthy and prosperous year for you and your family.