Thursday, December 31, 2015


Happy Hogmanay All! 

Some rituals:

 The first-foot to cross your threshold in at midnight as you walk into the New Year is to be a tall, dark haired man to herald in good luck for the rest of the year. Beware of a red-headed person crossing the threshold first - threatens the year will have bad luck. 

Gifts to Bring a Scot on New Year: A Coin, Shortbread, Black Bun, Salt, Coal, and Whisky,  
which represent financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth, and good cheer respectively

The Chapter from my book,  The Skye in June,  below will give some other rituals the Scots do at the end and beginning of the New Year. In it you will learn how the MacDonalds continue their special rituals and celebrations in their new countries. Click the link under the photo to learn more about Hogmanay origins and celebrations. Enjoy!

"Skye" is about a Scottish immigrant family living in San Francisco - mid 1950's to early days of the '60's.

Read more about the story at june ahern dot com. Available in eBook and paperback. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, order from your favorite bookstore.


THE MACDONALDS PLANNED to host their first party in America on New Year’s Eve, 1955. The family worked together to spruce up their flat in the weeks before the gathering.

Cathy busily washed the bay windows with June at her side, trying to be helpful. The soapy water dripped down the girl’s arms and into her rolled-up sleeves. 

“We have to make the house nice and clean for all the people coming. Is that right, Mommy?” June asked.

“That’s right, my wee clootie dumpling,” Cathy said. She watched June’s determined face as she carefully scrubbed at the glass. Her mind drifted back to when the idea of having a party on Hogmanay first arose. 

When it came to June, she prayed Granda and Granny B would visit for Christmas. Her wish brought up a conversation during dinner about past holidays in Scotland. Jimmy said how much fun the Scottish New Year was. Annie, who was old enough to remember, reminded her father that in Scotland, the New Year celebration was called Hogmanay.

“What a holiday it is! We have special things––traditions, like paying off debts before the first of January,” Sandy told the children in seriousness.

“We won’t have to worry about that tradition, eh, Jimmy?” Cathy said. Her husband didn’t believe in accumulating debts and lived frugally, day-by-day. He prided himself in being able to send weekly payments to Granda B for the money he had loaned them to make their move to America possible.

“Mommy, what were the parties like at Hogmanay?” June said, crucifying the name the Scots called New Year’s Eve and the days following. It sounded like she said, “Hug many.”

The adults laughed so cheerfully that she joined in, thinking how happy everyone was with her question. 
They began to reminisce about Hogmanay. The descriptions of the holiday spilled out across the dining table as Jimmy, Sandy and Cathy related their stories about Scotland’s most popular holiday, which was celebrated as though it were a religious event.

When Jimmy said the streets of Glasgow were busy with people going from house to house starting on New Year’s Eve, visiting and bringing gifts, June gathered that Hogmanay was like Halloween night.

“What kind of gifts?” she asked.

Annie piped in, “Granny always baked special things like holiday oat cakes and black buns.”

“Whiskey cake and her famous shortbread. Oh yum!” Cathy jumped in, winking at her daughters as she licked her lips and made a wide circle on her belly.

“Good whiskey,” Jimmy added.

Sandy told a story about the time they went bathing in the Clyde River, just to see who could endure the cold water the longest. “It was so bloody frigid. If it hadn’t been for the whiskey keeping my blood moving and Cathy’s brother, Peter, jumping in to pull me out…”

Nancy interrupted the story with a sharp, “Sandy! That’s not a good example for the children.”

“Right dear. We were silly boys then. It’s a very dangerous thing to do,” he said seriously.

Cathy covered her smiling lips with a napkin and made big eyes at her daughters.

“Tell us more, Mommy,” June said, enjoying the cheery conversation.

Her mother clasped her hands and placed them on the table in front of her, her blue eyes glittering in the candlelight. Everyone sat still and listened as Cathy’s soft Scottish voice told the story.

“There’s a very special ritual on Hogmanay that begins at midnight on New Year’s Eve, acted out in the homes across Scotland. It’s customary that the first guest, called the first foot, enters a home shortly after midnight. It’s tradition that the first foot is a dark haired man who comes bearing gifts. It’s usually a lump of coal to keep the host’s home warm through the long cold winter and a bottle of Scotch to warm their souls.”

Jimmy interrupted, “Ye hope it’s a dark haired man who enters first, because then you’d have good luck throughout the upcoming year.”

Cathy kept talking, “Girls, your Granda B was a most welcomed guest as the first foot because he was tall and had black hair.” She was looking dreamily into the candle flame. “Until his hair turned white, that is.” Although she said it lightly, June sensed sadness in her mother’s voice.

“Aye, he was always the life of the party, getting everybody to sing and the ladies up for a dance. It’s his favorite holiday,” Jimmy said nostalgically.

The room quieted as the storytellers became lost in their own memories. June didn’t want the enchanting Hogmanay tales to end and she asked, “Can we have a party?”

Her sisters cheered the idea loudly.

Jimmy and Cathy looked at each other across the table. She hesitated, fearful of letting down the girls if she took a spell of depression.

“No a bad idea,” he said enthusiastically.

Looking at the girls’ excited faces staring at her, it was hard not to give in to them. Cathy decided that celebrating Hogmanay in America would start a family tradition in their new country.

* * *
more about the party with the other Scottish immigrants continues in the book. 

What are your traditions on New Year's Eve and day? 


Read more about June Ahern and her books at
The Skye in June
City of Redemption
How to Talk With Spirits
The Timeless Counselor

No comments: