In Scotland, there are many unique customs associated with the New Year. These form the Scottish celebration Hogmanay—the Scots name for New Year’s Eve. The street party in Princes Street in Edinburgh is one famous example.
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 neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) 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 (although modern days see people visiting houses well into the middle of January). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year. Traditionally, tall, dark men are preferred as the first-foot.
In Scottish folklore, the first-foot is the first person to enter the home of a household on New Year’s Day and a bringer of good fortune for the coming year.
Although it is acceptable in many places for the first-footer to be a resident of the house, they must not be in the house at the stroke of midnight in order to first-foot (thus going out of the house after midnight and then coming back in to the same house is not considered to be first-footing).
It is said to be desirable for the first-foot to be a tall, dark-haired male. A female or fair-haired male are in some places regarded as unlucky.
The first-foot usually brings several gifts, including perhaps a coin (silver is considered good luck), bread, salt, coal, or a drink (usually whiskey), which represent financial prosperity, food, flavor, warmth, and good cheer respectively.
Today I’m thankful for Travel.
We’ve been fortunate to be able to travel to several interesting places.
Some, like Iceland, we just lucked in to. We’d wanted to go to Ireland but the travel agent couldn’t get us in at any time over that summer. She did get us a deal where, if we flew Iceland Air, they’d give us a free week in a hotel in Iceland before flying us to London. Duh! Wonderful trip.
A couple years ago we were in Costa Rica and took a day trip to Nicaragua where we stood at the rim of Masaya, a live volcano.
And a neat train in Alaska (more about this trip here: http://www.cushingsonline.com/Alaska/alaska.htm)
Our bus driver was a very good driver who told us all about the history of Skagway and the surrounding areas. Our first stop was Liarsville (http://www.klondiketours.com/goldcampshow.html), a tent village for gold miners. It was called Liarsville because many newspaper reporters were there publishing tales of how “easy” it was to find gold and become rich. No Way! The locals did a show for us and let us pan for gold. Of course, most everyone found some little gold flakes. A very hard way to make a living!
We made our way up the White Pass on the Klondike Highway to a 3,000 ft waterfall, Dead Horse Gulch (a lot of pack horses couldn’t make it the whole way), the Moore Bridge, Yukon Suspension Bridge at Tutshi Canyon and up over the West White Pass into Fraser British Columbia Canda, the same way that the miners had to walk or go with pack animal and 2,000 pounds of supplies. Much easier by heated bus! It was very scenic and we took lots of pictures.
At the summit of that, in Fraser, British Columbia, we got on the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) Railroad train.
The WP&YR was originally built to help those miners who were hauling the ton of supplies up the pass but they finished building the railroad a year after the gold rush had ended. There’s more info about this railroad at http://www.wpyr.com We went over trestle bridges, through tunnels, over glaciers. Definitely a worthwhile trip.
WP&YR webcam: http://www.whitepassrailroad.com/multimedia/webcam.html
Here’s a bit of our train trip. Tom took this from the platform between the cars:
A very scary road between Stirling and Kinlochard, Scotland:
A helicopter around Barbados (more about this trip at http://beautiful-barbados.blogspot.com/2008/08/wednesday-week-one-helicopter-day.html)
Edinburgh Tattoo – twice!
Panama Canal. In the volcano image above, I’m wearing the tshirt for the Panama Canal Railway that runs through the jungle.
Costa Rica and the Oh My God bridge. They took this down while we were there – thank goodness!
And the not so good: Fire ants in Hilton Head, Thunderstorm in the Everglades, Africanized Killer Bee in Costa Rica, …