So here we are on the cusp of another new year…
2016 just around the corner.
Being Scottish we have a few traditions that need to be upheld on this fantastic evening of Hogmanay……
I have so many memories of years gone by, growing up in a Scottish home and the rituals of Hogmanay being followed to ensure that we bring as much Good Luck to the house as possible.
When we were very young we were sent off to bed in the afternoon to try to get a couple hours sleep to allow us to stay up for the ‘Bells’, although I remember going off to bed and I am sure there was not much sleep had between me and my sisters, it was a couple of hours for my Mum and Dad to get the house ready for the big event, a spring clean done…. Windows washed the bathroom cleaned and the carpets all hovered ….. I know many of you will think we were mad, but it had to be done.
All these rituals had been carried out by generations before and we could not be the one to break with tradition……
So as I said above there would be the Spring Clean, making the meal for the Bells and the most important of all….. waiting for the first foot…..
I will explain these one by one….
So the spring clean, that included washing the windows, making sure the bathroom was spotless and the carpets was all hoovered and the beds made and bedrooms tidy…. one of the main part of this was to ensure that the bins were empty, but this needed to be done just before the ‘Bells’ to ensure that all the old rubbish of the old year was taken out and the house was clean and ready for the new year.
The meal for after the ‘Bells‘, full 3 courses, usually consisted of homemade Lentil Soup, Steak pie with all the trimmings and baked rice. This was all to do with the good luck and ensuring that through the year we would always have food on the table.
As the evening progressed we would go off and get ready in our ‘party frocks’ before settling down to watch the television programs that came with Hogmanay, ….. I know I hear you all say OMG….. but that was the routine in many of the houses in Scotland.
The tv program Scotch and Wry was a favourite in our house, with the usual sketch with Ricky Fulton as The Reverend I.M. Jolly. For those who remember when the tv closed in the evenings and there was the Late Call, evening prayer said by a man of the cloth. There is a very well known Scottish comedian Ricky Fulton, he had a very good and did many different sketches, and he was fantastic as the Reverend I.M. Jolly… I have found a few old sketches on YouTube, you can have a look for yourself.
In 1988 there was a new program made to celebrate the Bells ‘The Steamie‘ was based in 1950s and portrayed the life of the Glasgow wifes in the 50’s and their visit to ‘The Steamie’ to wash all the clothes before the ‘Bells’.
They would usually take us all the way up to the ‘Bells’, so in preparation for the ‘Bells’ we would be keeping an eye on the clock to make sure we didn’t miss it. My Dad would be our ‘First Foot’ tradition states that it should be ‘Tall, Dark Handsome Man’ who should be your first foot, ensuring good luck for the year to come….. I can assure you my Dad fitted all points 🙂 ….
He would take the rubbish out of the back door, take a bottle of whisky with him and walk round to the front door, and while looking in the front window for the ‘Bells’ to ring (Big Ben on the TV) he would chap (knock) the door and wait for my Mum to answer, when he came in, it was kisses around with offerings of ‘Happy New Year’.
Once all the kisses and happy new years were done, then it was time to sit down and enjoy the feast that awaited us.
Once the food was finished then we would sit and wait for others to come to the door with their offerings of Happy New Year and a wee dram for their bottle of whisky.
It was normal for the neighbours to go door to door after the ‘Bells’ offering a drink from their bottle, while accepting a drink from the host, before heading on to the next house with their bottle and so on. So although offering a drink from your bottle, there was no problem as you would receive as many drinks as was offered while visiting the many houses in the street.
A number of houses waited for the tall, dark, stranger to come to the door and no one could leave the house before the first foot as this would take all your good luck out of the house before someone brought it in….. I know, I know….
The party would continue until well into the wee hours of the morning and the next day would be spent clearing up and relaxing, before the normality of the New Year would kick in and everyone would be back to work and school.
Over the years a few of the traditions have changed to go with the times, but never too much….. We don’t go for the full 3 courses after the bells, but we do make sure there is plenty of food, usually nibbles on the table and cold bottles in the fridge.
My (Dutch) husband is very perplexed by my insistence of the cleaning of the house and emptying the bins before the bells, but we follow the tradition, making sure we take all the old rubbish (and bad luck) out with the old year ready for the Good Luck of the New Year…….
Maybe this will be our year for the Lottery Numbers ….. here’s hoping.
So I hope you have found some insight into the traditions of ‘Bells’ and whats needed for Hogmanay..
All the best and Happy New Year to you when it comes.