When I was growing up, we lived next door to the Main family. They were Scottish.. his name was Andrew. We lived in a little development called Sunset Park. The first year that we lived there...we were invited to come next door and celebrate New Year's Eve. It was there that we learned some Scottish New Year customs. Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year. Andrew was an old man and he sat in his chair, with his pipe and related the story to us.
There are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of first footing which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as coal, shortbread, whiskey and black bun (a rich fruitcake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day.The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year. We came bearing gifts...my Mom brought a fruitcake, not knowing about the custom. I don't know if it qualified as a "black bun" but it was really appreciated. My Dad and Andrew drank Scotch whiskey and the ladies had something called Christmas Ale. I was the only child and I forget what I had. We were invited for New Year's Eve and went home at midnight. We came back in the morning to be the "first footers" We really had a good time with this older couple and their daughter. I remember it still when Andrew sang Auld Lang Syne. The ladies had tears in their eyes.
The song, "Auld Lang Syne," is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition. An old Scottish tune, "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days."
Here is the original Scottish version of the Auld Lang Syne lyrics:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and auld lang syne ?
CHORUS:For auld lang syne, my jo,for auld lang syne,we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,for auld lang syne. And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp !and surely I'll be mine !And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,for auld lang syne.
CHORUS: We twa hae run about the braes,and pu'd the gowans fine ;But we've wander'd mony a weary foot,sin auld lang syne.
CHORUS: We twa hae paid l'd i' the burn,frae morning sun till dine ;But seas between us braid hae roar'dsin auld lang syne.
CHORUS:And there's a hand, my trusty fiere !and gie's a hand o' thine !And we'll tak a right gude-willy waught,for auld lang syne.
So watch for the "first footer" at your door this New Year's Day. That person will give you a clue as to what the new year will bring. I hope they come bearing gifts May we all have a Happy Year Ahead.