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December 31, 2015

Happy Hogmanay from Scotland

New Years Eve is celebrated around the world but here in Scotland we call it Hogmanay!


Edinburgh Castle Fireworks at Hogmanay (

There are many theories about the meaning of the word Hogmanay, and many believe we inherited the celebration from the Vikings.


Led by Shetland’s Up Helly Aa Vikings a torchlight procession through the centre of Edinburgh kicks of this year’s Hogmanay Celebrations (Image:BBC News)

Christmas was not celebrated in Scotland until fairly recently, after the Church Reformation in the 16th Century, the celebration of Christmas was frowned on by the Church of Scotland. Christmas Day was a normal working day for most people in Scotland and it was not a public holiday until 1958. As many Scots had to work over Christmas they came together as a family at New Year instead to celebrate the winter solstice holiday. The 1st and 2nd of January are public holidays in Scotland and Hogmanay remains an important celebration.

There are many customs both national and local associated with Hogmanay

Traditional customs before midnight are making sure the house is clean and families traditionally did a big clean to ready the house for the New Year. Sweeping out the fireplace to clear the ashes before midnight was very important as was making sure any debts where settled, it was considered back luck to have debts at New Year.

As the bells begin to strike twelve, somebody should let the old year out – open the back door and sweep it out. Then go to the front door and open it to welcome the New Year in.

A traditional greeting is:-

“Welcome in New Year!

When you come, bring good cheer!”

Immediately after midnight or the bells as we call it in Scotland it is traditional to sing Robert Burns “Auld Lang Syne” everyone stands in a circle and joins hands.

I think this rendition is beautiful

First footing- starts after midnight, this involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt, coal, shortbread, whisky and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Traditionally a tall, dark handsome stranger had to be the first at the door to bring good luck for the year ahead.

Saining of the House – This is a very old rural tradition that involved blessing the house and livestock with water from a local stream, the inside of the house was also blessed room to room with a smouldering juniper branch and then the windows are opened.

Bonfires and Fire Festivals- Fireworks, torchlight processions and bonfires are common in Scotland at Hogmanay and in January and may come from ancient Pagan and Viking customs.

One of the most spectacular of these is here in the North East of Scotland -The Stonehaven Fireball Festival.

At the stroke of midnight local people swinging flaming wire cages, around their heads walk down Stonehaven High Street. The fireballs are then thrown in the harbour. The idea behind the ceremony is to burn off the bad spirits left from the old year so that the spirits of the New Year can come in clean and fresh.

All of the Celtic countries have a similar custom of lighting a candle to light the way of a stranger. In Scotland was the Oidche Choinnle, or Night of Candles. Candles were placed in every window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve and First Footers on New Years Eve. Shopkeepers gave their customers Yule Candles as a symbol of goodwill wishing them a ‘Fire to warm you by, and a light to guide you’

It would not be Hogmanay for me without a good ceilidh dance so here is wee tune to see the year out, enjoy!

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr to you all, wishing you a very Happy New Year!




October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween from Scotland


The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (summer’s end). The Celtic year was determined by the growing seasons and Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest, and the beginning of the dark cold winter. The festival symbolised the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

In the 9th century, the Roman Catholic Church shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to the 1st of November, while the 2nd of November later became All Souls’ Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ merged to create the modern Halloween.

It was believed by the Celts that on the night of 31st October, ghosts of the dead would walk again among them, and large bonfires were lit in each village to ward off any evil spirits. All house fires were put out and new fires lit from these great bonfires. In many parts of Scotland it was customary to leave an empty chair and a plate of food for invisible guests. People believed that it was the night when the souls of the dead were set free to roam. They might come into their houses and eat at their tables. The hour before midnight was the witching hour when the departed returned.


While bonfires to scare away the undead are still lit in some areas of Scotland, more usually “neep lanterns” (turnip lanterns) are made by scooping out a turnip and cutting through the skin to create eyes, nose and mouth. A candle is then placed inside to make the lantern. These lanterns are also supposed to ward off evil spirits. Nowadays thanks to the influence of American culture, pumpkins are more commonly used for lanterns.

Robert Burns wrote a poem called ‘Hallowe’en’ that was first published in 1786. It describes Hallowe’en divination and fortune-telling customs. Burns’s love of stories of ghosts and witches led to his famous poem ‘Tam O’ Shanter’. Scots that emigrated to America took their Halloween customs and traditions across the Atlantic. Eventually Halloween came full circle with pumpkins and American style trick-or-treat masks now found everywhere in Scotland. Halloween is massive in America but most people don’t realise that the festival has its origins in Scotland.

Until recently trick or treat was unknown in Scotland. Instead children here dressed up in old clothes, or pretended to be evil spirits and went guising. The custom traces back to a time when it was thought that by disguising children in this way they would blend in with the spirits that went roaming that night. Any such child who approached a house would be given an offering to ward off evil. Guisers had to recite a song, poem or joke before being rewarded in goodies.

Children’s parties are still an important element of Halloween. “Dookin’ for apples” is a Halloween party game which involves taking an apple floating in a basin of water without using your hands. This is another Halloween tradition with its roots in pagan times. The origin of bobbing for apples stems back to the ancient Celts who held apples as sacred.


 The Samhuinn Festival in Edinburgh is an annual event marking the Celtic New Year. Presented by the Beltane Society, the event features a spectacular procession of fire, music, dancing, theatre and fireworks and takes place along Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile.

Traditions, Vintage

Granny’s Sewing Machine..

May 8, 2013

On a visit to a local historical society last week when I was on holiday I noticed they had an old sewing machine on display. It was not in very good condition and I remarked to my mother what a shame  it was like that as they are so pretty. Up pipes mother oh yes your granny’s one is in much better condition.

 Granny’s sewing machine!!!!

What sewing machine!!??

I had never heard of this sewing machine before let alone set eyes on it!

It has been lovingly kept covered up in a safe place for many years so it would not get damaged.

What a beauty it is and still in working order how fantastic.



Vickers Sewing Machine


I looked up the make of the machine online as I had never heard of it before and found out this interesting information.

“Produced from 1917 to 1939 in Crayford, London by the Vickers Company, famous for their WWI Machine Gun and later of course for several aircraft.
The Vickers De Luxe Model was produced in direct competition to the popular German Frister & Rossmann sewing machine and Vickers unabashed aim of destroying the German company`s market share was such a success that Frister & Rossmann survived in name only from the 1920s.”