This Friday is the Winter Solstice, the close of the dark half of the year and the rekindling of the light half, which begins on Saturday. I love this time of year, not only because Yule & Christmas celebrations are in full swing, most of which are joyous, but because the resurgence of the light fills me with renewed energy and more than a little hope that the New Year will bring more blessings.
I am a light person. I wouldn’t fare well in Alaska where there is no respite from the light during the sun season, but I’m not one for complete balance either. I like more light than dark. Yule, Christmas and Scottish Hogmanay are all celebrations of light and hope, love and joy.
In Celtic traditions, evergreen boughs are traditionally brought in to decorate the home and remind us of the greenness past and to come. Fires are lit to capture the essence of the sun and to celebrate it. Holly is traditionally venerated because it stays green year round and its berries, red and white, are seen as representative of the Deity. I love the symbology, the richness of the season and most of all sharing it with those I love.
I come from Scottish and Norse traditions and love everything about them. HOGMANAY is a uniquely Scottish celebration. There are some loose translations for the term, including: “Great love day”, “New Morning”, “Man is Born-or-ReBorn”. Yule is a Norse festival and the New Year is called, “Yules”. As many of you know northern Scotland, especially the Isles, has a strong Norse influence, making their festivals a dramatic joy to behold. I embrace it all!
Here’s a photo of the Norse Up-Hella-A held in Scotland (Shetland) as part of the Yule Fire Festival. The farther north (Shetland and Orkney are far north) the more noticeable and powerful the coming light is and the fire festivals hold huge significance. In southern Scotland fireballs are thrown into the air for Hogmanay. Hospitality is always huge, but especially on New Year’s Eve when a “tall, dark, handsome stranger” at your door carrying a piece of coal (prosperity-comfort) and cake (fulfillment) is a good omen. Blonds…not so good (left over from Viking raids). This is the tradition of “first footing” and although no one much cares about hair color anymore, gifts of warmth, food and probably whisky are given to all those entering the home.
Cleaning is still a Hogmanay tradition. The idea is to say goodbye to the old year and its sorrows by sweeping away the old and those things no longer needed and welcoming in the new with a clean heart and the open arms of hospitality.
More recently (1788) the singing of Scottish poet, Robert Burns’, Auld Lang Syne is sung to an even older (1700 or so) Scottish tune. In the last 20 years the Loony Dook has been practiced on New Years Day morning when people get dressed up in their finery, go down to the River Forth, strip and take a dip. I won’t be doing that, no matter how much Scotland’s bonny river banks may be calling.
We will celebrate the Solstice, Christmas and Hogmanay with those we love this year. We will each light a home-made candle and help lay the fire. We will sing and dance and welcome the New Year with joy in our hearts and hope for even better days. We will eat Krumkake (Norwegian cookies) and Macski’s Haggis (National dish of Scotland) and smoked salmon. And I think more than one glass will be raised to you and all those we hold dear.
Merry Christmas, Happy Yule and a “Guid New Year” at Hogmany to you All!
Krumkake Recipe (handed down by my grandfather):
3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup flour. Beat eggs until light and gradually add remaining ingredients. Drop 1 Tbs into the center of a heated krumkake iron. Savor the goodness.
Scottish Haggis, Neeps & Tatties:
Simple and delicious, prepare one Macski’s hagggis per instructions and serve with buttered mashed potatoes, boiled & mashed rutabagas or parsnips, and a wee dram of your favorite Scotch whisky.
A traditional Yule Ball plays a part in A Potters Woods Christmas, a Christmas short story that is part of Authors of Main Street Christmas bundle.