When I was young, Scotland was the place to be on New Years Eve. A time when mother’s scrubbed the house from top to bottom; even although it had been scrubbed the previous week, curtains were taken down, windows washed and the hovering began and woe betide you if you innocently asked ‘whose coming’ as if mothers’ everywhere only cleaned on Hogmanay.
Father’s were usually sat in front of the television, or had taken themselves off to the pub with a cry of ‘I’ll be away out your way hen’ any excuse to absent themselves from the work. The weans were ushered upstairs out the road as the cleaning and scrubbing continued.
A jar of pickles, a tin of meat and a piece of cheese appeared from within the cupboard, hidden from view, in case someone delved into them before the allotted time. The cheese and meat chopped daintily into cubes and placed onto cocktail sticks, together with the pickle and the snacks carefully placed onto a fancy looking plate that only seen the light of day at New Year. “Your Aunty Annie’s coming tonight, give me that plate out, I want her to see I’m using it, just in case she thinks I don’t like it.” Many a mother would say. In addition to the cheese, meat and pickle cocktails, the familiar red box of Ritz biscuits would appear. And tiny sausage rolls that had been dipped into milk to get them nice and brown would be placed in the oven. Then there were cakes and sandwiches. And a stern warming to the weans that they were for the guests and weren’t to be touched.
The chairs would be placed neatly in a square, the coffee table moved to make space for dancing, the younger weans ushered upstairs to bed, the older ones permitted to stay up for the bells. There was always that one person who arrived early and would sit nursing their drink, taking sips and smiling uncomfortably as others arrived. By midnight the room erupted in laughter; the countdown began, excitement and then, Auld Lang Syne sung as loud and proud as possible. Our Rabbie’s legacy, sung around the world. And all the while the older weans were hankering to get into the cheese, meat and pickle cocktails. A Hogmanay novelty but they were forced to wait, until after the first foot came. The excitement of it; those with blond hair pushed to the back, it had to be someone with dark hair as they brought the luck.
Andy Stewart played on a record player, there was always that one song that made the needle jump, or perhaps it was the thump, thump, thump, of those doing the Highland fling. People went first footing, only to return in a state of intoxication, in other words, they were ‘pissed as a fart’ and summoned up the courage for the singsong. “One singer, one song” was always the cry.
That was the Hogmanay I remembered as a child, now it is nothing more than money making scheme, where a business can dictate to residents of Edinburgh where they can and cannot go, where you have to have a permit to get into the city. Where you cannot have friends come to your home without the say-so of some money making moron. For those who like it, fine, but there are those of us, who remember the old days, where you knew your neighbour, your family lived just around the corner and where you saw out the old year and welcomed in the new. And hardly saw New Years Day because you were recovering from old years night, oh well, at least I have my memories and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Have a great Hogmanay whatever you have planned, who knows; maybe you have a party to go to? Perhaps the old tradition hasn’t died a death, if it has, perhaps it is time to bring it back. .