Friday, December 31, 2010

Viking Ships In Flames, First-Footing: It's Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) In Scotland

By Robert Guthrie
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
DUMFRIES, Scotland – “Hogmanay” – yes, I know what you’re thinking. It’s a weird word. But believe it or not, it is the Scots’ word for “Last Day of The Year” and is a night of many superstitions, traditions, and fun.
First of all, Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, becomes a hive of activity, with Scottish pipers playing our national instrument, the bagpipes. There are many fireworks – though we can’t live up to Sydney’s high standards – and many people, well, they have a very GOOD night, with a few drinks.
This year, there is going to be a big fire torch procession, and you can buy a flamed torch and join in the march.
There is also a large Viking ship that will be burnt in celebration of the New Year. This was a Viking cleansing tradition.
Another celebration also happens around this time, on the Shetland Isles, called “Up Helly Aa” and it is another Viking tradition of fire. It does not happen on New Year’s Eve, but it is around these next few weeks.
For those who don’t know, the Shetland Isles are far away from the mainland of Scotland at the far north. There are even the Orkney Isles between Scotland and Shetland, and the Orkney Isles are very like Shetland. Long ago, Shetland used to be under Viking occupation, but the weird thing is, Shetland is closer to Norway than it is closer to Scotland!
In my village in Scotland, some people choose to stay at home.

Robert Guthrie snapped this photo of his family's New Year's Eve buffet
We will be playing some games, and having a buffet dinner. Many people in our village will do the same, as it is roughly 90 minutes to travel.
One superstition is that everyone who comes to your house for your event (if you have one) is to bring a lump of coal and a piece of food to share.
This is known as “First-Footing.” It may sound odd, but the first person to get to your house with a piece of coal will bring good luck!
Grown-ups also drink the Scottish alcoholic drink, whisky. It is made out of malt, yeast and barley.
Some places might have a community Ceilidh. This is a Gaelic word which has been adopted for the Scottish Dance Night.
People can come along with their friends and dance with a full band playing lots of music into the night, to celebrate the New Year.
Scots Gaelic, pronounced phonetically “Skotts Gaylik,” is the language which many Scottish people used to speak, and still speak, on the islands and highland areas of Scotland.
It is a complex language to learn, and if you travel to the Highlands, you see some signs written in it as well. Gaelic is the first language for some Scottish people.
This is just a taste of what some people in Scotland get up to for New Year’s.
I wish the whole world a Happy New Year, wherever you are. Celebrate it in your own special way!
May 2011 be a happy and healthy year for all.

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