My father told me that his Scottish family never really celebrated Christmas until the twentieth century. Hogmanay or New Year Day was their big celebration.
My Grandmother would go all out for Hogmanay. The house had to be cleaned from top to bottom so that you had a clean house for the New Year. I still hold to this tradition.
I remember many New Year Day parties. There was a buffet and in the early years a poached salmon was the centre piece of the table. Grandpa had a special taste for smoked oysters so they were included as well. These parties started out large and included friends and family. When my Grandpa retired the parties became a smaller family gathering.
My Grandmother would meet the first visitor to the house in the New Year at the door. The first person over the doorstep in the New Year had to be a gentleman who had dark hair but before he could come in he would be handed a piece of coal, a potato and an oatcake. These were handed back to my Grandmother when he entered the house. The dark hair gentleman brought good luck, the coal warmth, the potato and oatcake food and abundance. I can remember people standing on the door step waiting for a dark haired gentleman so that we could go in the house. It was a strict rule.
In the 1940s my Grandmother’s father visited at New Year and brought them a piece of coal. This was the piece of coal that was handed to the first male entering the house for over 50 Hogmanay celebrations. When my Grandmother left her home in the late 1990s to move in with my Aunt she was insistent that the piece of coal go with her and not be packed up in a box.
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