The end of one year and beginning of another has given rise to many traditions over the centuries. In Scotland, Hogmanay is a festivity celebrated on the last day of the year. Children traditionally stroll about the neighborhood on this day asking for presents. The term also refers to the gifts given or received on Hogmanay.
The traditional Hogmanay includes “first footing,” the welcoming of a tall, dark stranger at the stroke of midnight. First-footers bring good luck but should also bring a gift, preferably uisge beatha (“water of life”). Gaelic uisge is pronounced like English whiskey, which tells you what it means.
If the uisge is all sold out, a lump of coal or an oat cake called a “bannock” will suffice as a present. This tradition reaches back to the Viking era, when tall, dark strangers were more welcome than the blond, blue-eyed Vikings who brought bad luck to Britain.
My dear friend Dr. Ann Thomas of Pottsboro was visiting in Scotland one New Year’s Eve some years ago, and she reports that revelers celebrating Hogmanay consumed large quantities of uisge and dined on haggis as well as bannocks. Haggis is a spicey Scottish meatloaf, except that it should be baked in a sheep’s stomach.
Shifting gears to a totally different end-of-year tradition, my dad taught me to use the “12 Old Days” to predict our weather for the new year. This is an ancient folk belief that the weather for each month of the new year is determined by the weather of the twelve days from Dec. 26 to Jan. 6.
For example, on Dec. 31, 2012, which forecasts the weather of June 2013, locally we had rain and cool temperatures, which is what we can expect in six months: a cool and rainy month.
Closely related is an old British festival called a bean-feast, traditionally celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas. This was an annual dinner given by an employer to his workmen. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the beanfeast often took the form of a trip to some beauty spot, where the meal was provided, and the timing was shifted to summertime, better for traveling.
Happy birthday Tuesday to Belinda Ruth Segrest, Marcus Jackson Jr., Naysia Taylor, Stephen Taylor Jr., Jayson Alexander Ezell, Marcella Reed, Kristi Ritchey, Samantha McLain and twins, Brennan and Brenna Taylor, all of Sherman; Ronald Lewis Haker of Arlington; Chuck Luther Parham of Kenner, La.; Diane Wall of Paris, Texas; Dakota Mahan.
Happy anniversary Tuesday to William Lee and Lucy Faye Bevels of Sherman, 68 years; Asa and Christal Jessee of Pottsboro; Cecil and Carol Dobbs of Sadler, 47 years; and Bob and Wand Graves of Sherman.