Happy New Year!
New Year Traditions are so interesting, but none more exciting or widely celebrated than that of Hogmanay, the most wide of all New Years Traditions.
Well, we made it. Barely, but we made it through this terrible, crappy, often times insane year. Many of us have been crawling, weary and ragged towards December 31st. It is the time of year when we reflect on the year past and look forward to making positive changes in the new year. There are things you can do to prepare yourself for the year to come, more than simply making a cheesey resolution you won’t keep after a week.
But first, lets take a look at one of the coolest new years celebrations in the world: The Scottish Hogmanay.
Hogmanay is a very big deal in Scotland. It’s the biggest day in the festive calendar, a celebration that makes Christmas Day seem very small indeed – and it’s like nothing else on Earth. Hogmanay is what the Scots call their New Year’s Eve celebrations. The origins of the word are unclear – some say it’s a corruption of the Greek words for ‘holy month’, others that it’s of French origin – but the celebrations themselves go back centuries.
It wasn’t until relatively recently that the Scots even began celebrating Christmas (since it was banned for almost 400 years), so what we know as traditional holiday celebrations aren’t all that popular yet. So, where did it come from and why is it a big deal?
When the Vikings began to raid around the Winter Solstice, they partied afterwards, and after many years, the celebrations began to mix with the celebrations of Samhain and Yule and ultimately ended up being the celebration of Hogmanay (if you’ll allow me to condense things quite a bit for brevity).
In addition to a huge (several days long) party, there are a lot of traditions associated specifically with Hogmanay in Scotland.
They do their “Spring cleaning: “In some communities, or the ritual cleaningof the kitchen for Passover, families traditionally did a major cleanup to ready the house for the New Year. Sweeping out the fireplace was very important and there was a skill in reading the ashes, the way some people read tea leaves.” –Ferne Arfin
The two most widely known (and the ones I love most) are the First-Footing
Of course, all over the world, people sing Robert Burns‘ version of this traditional Scottish air. How it became the New Year’s song is something of a mystery, and honestly what it replaced is one of my favorite tradition songs that I sing to my son every single night (The Parting Glass). At Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, people join hands for what is reputed to be the world’s biggest Auld Lang Syne.
You can work on actively releasing the negative parts of the part year and walking into the new year with intention and real, attainable goals. You can also help lift your spirits and sort of, ungunk your self, your home and basically your life!
A lesser known or practiced tradition but one I do much more often than just at New Years is Smuding. I like to smudge my house for the new year and if you’ve never smudged, you are missing out!
Smudging is burning herbs, most commonly Sage, to get rid of negative energy on yourself, your home or any space. Smudging can be useful when you’re feeling depressed, angry, resentful, unwell or if you have felt or are feeling a negative presence in your home or you are feeling unwanted spirits. You would normally use a smudge stick to do it, and you can make your own, or simply buy one at a new age store. Smudging is thousands of years old. it was used by Native Americans, in ancient Rome and in Greece. In ancient Egypt it was used as a way to cleanse a space from bad spirits and negative energy.
To Smudge: light a smudge stick and let it catch fire. Extinguih the fire and let the smoke billow from the stick. Walk around your home letting the smoke get everywhere, in every room, in cupboards and small spaces. The smoke is not dangerous and will not harm you, your pets or small children. Use a bowl to catch any ashes.
Another way to mentally prepare yourself for the new year is to get real about what happened in the last year and physically write down some goals for the new year.
Sit down and write a letter to yourself.
- List 3 things that worked for you in 2016. Make a commitment to continue to do those things.
- List 3 things that didn’t work for you in 2016. Make a commitment to change those things.
- List out the best parts of the past year.
- List out the worst/hardest part of the past year.
- Write out your hopes for the new year.
- Decide on and write out your focus for the new year.
But until we start having our own fire festivals in full viking regalia… Hogmanay will have our New Years beat. Either way, Happy New Year everyone!
Do you have a particular way you ring in the new year?