Old Year out, New Year in

📖 In relation to yesterday’s post linking Scottish Gaelic & Scottish Lowland New Year traditions, here’s another wee one:

When the hands of the clock are almost on the hour, the head of the house rises, goes to the main door, opens it wide and holds it thus until the last stroke of the hour has died away.

“Welcome in, New Year! When ye come, bring good cheer!”

Then he shuts the door quietly and returns to the family circle. He has let the Old Year out and the New Year in. Instead of, or simultaneously with the opening of the house door, there is often a rush to the windows, and the pealing of the domestic bells (where they hung in a row in the kitchen, they were swept with a broom) and the beating of trays mingle with the clamour of church and town bells, the tooting of horns, the whistling of sirens, and the shouting of exuberant throats, borne in from the streets. (Originally this was no mere welcome; it was a solemn rite designed, like the beating of the house walls by the Hogmanay Lads of the Highlands and Islands, to exorcise all the demonic or malign influences that had accumulated in the home or in the community throughout the past year.) The hullabaloo subsides; the windows are shut; Auld Lang Syne is sung; greetings and small gifts or “hogmanays” are exchanged; glasses are filled- and already the first-footers are on them.

A Calendar of Scottish Customs: Hallowe’en to Yule by F. Marian McNeill

🪟 As can be seen from the above quote there are quite a few variations of this tradition re: if it’s windows &/or doors, who does the opening etc – which ones have you heard about or done yourself? For me it’s open the back door to let the old year out & front door to let the new year in 🚪

🐍 If you’re interested in reading more, have a wee look at the related articles linked below under the Share buttons etc if you haven’t already ⬇️

📸 Featured Photo Credit: Me – cat peering out of an open window, Glasgow

‘First-footing’ – connecting surviving Highland & Lowland New Year customs

📰 Just a short post highlighting another interesting article from The Quern-Dust Calendar – originally published 24th December 1993 – explaining the link between Scottish Gaelic customs such as the Gillean Callaig/Hogmanay lads & the New Year custom of ‘first-footing’, mostly done in the Lowlands (at least when this article was written):

“…But how, I have been asked, does it
all relate to the New Year custom that has survived best in Lowland Scotland, first-footing?
Well, first-footing is the converse of
expelling evil. In the brief gap between
one year and another when the normal rules of time are suspended and the
future can be influenced, a little bit of
suggestive magic is performed. Bad is
thrown out, good is ushered in. But
why is a dark man carrying a bottle in
one hand and a lump of coal in the other considered to be good?…”

🥃 Read why below:

From: https://querndust.co.uk/jpgs/192Enter.jpg

🪟 Related post for a tradition that people do in the house: https://theaddersden.wordpress.com/2022/01/04/old-year-out-new-year-in/ 🚪

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

🎅🏻Merry Christmas 🎄Nollaig Chridheil ⭐️Blythe Yule to all celebrating!

🥃 Thinking of those we can’t be with in person & remembering those we’ve lost too – this time of year can be both enjoyable & bitter sweet, so I hope everyone is taking care of themselves 🕯

🍿 If you’re looking for a wee Christmas film to watch that’s also Scottish, you might like:

🎶 Or a fun Scottish twist on a classic Christmas tune:

👻 Or for those who like a good ghost story at Christmas, this one set in a Scottish castle with creepy stuff happening in mirrors is a chilling read in the Glasgow Times online

🐍 Finally, of course feel free to have a read of previous blog posts on Christmas/Yule such as Scotland’s Interesting Relationship with Christmas & Norse Pagan Yule Myths

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

Scotland’s Interesting Relationship with Christmas

Ever wondered why Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is such a big thing in Scotland & why we have an extra day off at that time of year when neighbouring countries don’t? 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

This is because the Presbyterian Scottish Kirk abolished Yule/Christmas & any other feast days etc they felt were too “popish” in 1595. Prior to this, it had been a feast day since the population converted to Christianity. This was followed by more changes in the 1600s abolishing court holidays associated with Yule in order to have people practice what they thought was a more “pure” form of the religion 🚫

All these changes meant that not only was Yule supposed to be a normal working day but people could also be punished if caught celebrating, which did happen. As a result many traditions etc ‘migrated’ to New Year time & so Hogmanay became the time when people celebrated publicly 🗓

Although these bans were eventually lifted by the early 1700s, it wasn’t until 1971 that it became an official Bank Holiday in Scotland after public sentiment towards Christmas had shifted sufficiently for at least most people to want the day off to celebrate. Prior to the 1971 legislation, Christmas was supposed to have been made a Public Holiday in 1958, however this only seems to have had a patchy effect with just some areas or industries getting the day off & others not (or still having to request time off individually). So, it took more petitions from the public & demands from Scottish MPs to finally get that official Bank Holiday in 1971, making things very similar to how they are today 🌲

Nowadays Christmas is such a big thing in Scotland that you wouldn’t guess it had ever been any other way, but it hasn’t been that long since things were different ⏳

📜 For more details have a read of this brilliant post which includes various details more records, translations of old Scots & photos of documents etc regarding this part of our history, followed by a wee recipe at the end on The National Records of Scotland blog ⬅️

💬 Interesting quote from the above article taken from a 1939 letter in their archives:

“It has to be admitted that almost continuous contact with Englishmen, in an English city, is bound to have a changing influence on even a Scotsman, that being so it is well that he should be reminded that even yet, barbarous though it may seem to be to English people, the New Year is the national festival in Scotland.”

📰 Another interesting thing included in the article was a newspaper extract from 1970 detailing an MP’s argument as to why it should be made an official holiday – this newspaper is also available through the Google News archive so I’ll put an image of that version below:

Taken from: Google News

🎧 Additionally, you can have a listen to more details of the sort of “Christmas crimes” people got into trouble for during the bans on this podcast episode of Stories of Scotland

💻 You might also want to have a read of the Dunfermline History Society blog that contains more details about what happened in 1958 as well as similar info to the above linked NRS article.

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

🔥Oidhche Shamhna Shona Dhuibh!! 👻Happy Hallaeen/Halloween all!

🔥Oidhche Shamhna Shona Dhuibh & Happy Hallaeen/Halloween if you’re celebrating ☺️!!

🍬If you get any guisers coming to your door I hope you get them doing their party pieces/turns, none of this “trick-or-treat” only lol!

👻 One of my absolute favourite times of the year, filled with great memories ✨ If you’re the same then you might be interested in reading some wee facts about Halloween from a previous blog post.

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

Tam Lin – a Ballad from the Borders with a connection to Halloween

Tam Lin is a centuries old Scots language ballad with countless variations coming into existence over the years depending on the singer, time period etc 🎶

One major thing the vast majority of these variations have in common though is Halloween. The heroine of the story being able to rescue Tam hinges on the folk belief that Halloween was one of the times of year that the Good Neighbours/Fairies were more likely to be out & about as they moved from one residence to another. So, this was her chance to lie in wait that night & grab him as the Host passed by 🌫

Another thing most versions have in common is the Good Neighbours having to pay a teind to the Devil. This is due to a Lowland, particularly Borders, Scottish folk belief that they had to do so every 7 years & often tried to offer a human in order to prevent some of their own being taken to Hell instead. (Read more about this unique Scottish belief here) 🔥

Also quite prevalent is the mention of a sacred well in the woods that Tam Lin is known to be being made to haunt. In some versions the heroine – usually called Janet or Margaret, but is sometimes not named – has to throw him in it after he shapeshifts several times, eventually becoming molten lead, as this will return him to human form. (The Fairy/Elven Queen causes him to shapeshift to try to prevent his rescue)💧

Something that, perhaps surprisingly, is common to most versions is that the heroine actively seeks out the place where Tam is known to be & rescues him all on her own. However, this time unsurprisingly, is the variation in how much sexual agency she has & whether she consents or not. Just as these ballads can show us what people believed in terms of folklore, they also show us what society was like in general & in this case particularly for women, which I don’t think we should shy away from confronting. Therefore, many versions of Tam Lin, just as with a lot of old Scottish ballads, can be very problematic in this way – read a good overview & discussion of this here 📖

With that advanced warning out of the way I’m going to put a few different versions below for people to listen to or read if interested. For in-depth analysis, the lyrics over 40 recorded versions to read & more have a look at the Tam Lin Ballardry website – an absolute power of work has gone into it 🍃

🎧 Here’s a brilliant, modern rendition from Kay Thomson of the Traditional Music and Song Association, about 12 mins long:

Found on The Scots Language Centre Website

🎧 Duncan Williamson recalls fragments of the ballad he remembers his Gran singing decades before, about 3.5 mins long:

Listen & read on Tobar an Dualchais

🎧 Adam Lamb recalls a fragment of the ballad that stuck with him – as we can see from his location this ballad spread all over Scotland & wasn’t confined to the Borders, just under 1 min long:

Another that can be listened to on Tobar an Dualchais – use their search function for more 🔍

🎧 Another modern recorded version, this time in a Medieval style (as you can guess from the group name lol) about 4 mins long:

from YouTube

📖 Lastly, here’s a version found in the illustrated Ballads Weird and Wonderful (on archive.org) amongst other interesting titles such as “The Cruel Mother”, “The Demon Lover”, & another famous Border Ballad involving The Good Neighbours interacting with humans – “True Thomas”:

🎵 If you enjoy looking into old ballads & their various versions, you might also like this post highlighting an interesting paper on the famous Scottish Gaelic lament, Griogal Cridhe: read more & listen here.

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

Pictish Trail & Myth-Busting

Just a wee post to highlight a couple of interesting resources & places to visit in connection with the Picts 🙂

🪧 The Highland Pictish Trail Website – full of great info & places to visit. Extract from site intro:

“From the 300 AD to about 900AD, the Picts ruled much of what is now Scotland, and the Highlands were an important centre of Pictish power, culture and religion.
Today, you can experience for yourself their fascinating legacy in the Highlands – enigmatic and often finely carved stones, important religious sites, hillforts set on towering hills and ridges, finely-worked jewellery and sculpture cared for in local museums, and stories of kings, wizards, faith and battles.”

💥 Great Myth-Busting article from Dig It! – available in Scots (& English, but give the Scots a go)! Extract from intro:

“The Pechts are best kent fur their byordinar symbol stanes, whit are tae be fund oot-through Scotland. Hooivver, recent research has brocht tae licht michtie new elite settlements and airtit oot Pechtish monasteries – forby, it has e’en gied us dates fur these ferlie stanes. Takkin tent o aw this new data, lat’s hae a glisk at some o the maist common questions speirt anent thon unco interestin fowk.”

⭐️ For those that can’t visit any Pictish sites at the moment, here’s a fab wee collection of interactive 3D models of some of them on Sketchfab. Example of one 1 I really like (as you can tell from the Featured photo lol):

📚 For more have a look the Picts topic tag & the Picts section of the Resource pages

📸 Featured Photo credit: Me, Fortingall