Saturday, January 31, 2015

Beginning of a new year....

After starting off this year by celebrating Hogmanay, we are having a relaxing, quiet month.  We continue to settle into our house and work on getting back into a school routine.   We finally got a dusting of snow,  I have really missed our Hume snows, Peter has not missed them one bit.  He continues to walk to work so he is very happy with this mild weather. 

view from the sunroom, looking out into the back yard

We have begun to search for houses in the area.  Peter would really like to stay in the city, he is loving being able to walk to work!  We knew this area was expensive but still we are disheartened to see how much you pay for so little.  Most of the houses we are looking at need extensive work and have tiny or unusable yards.  Fingers crossed that some different houses come on the market this spring.

Peter drew this picture for Wythe, then Wythe added the two faces.  The large head is God and the small person "with crazy hair" is Wythe.  Recently Wythe has been drawing lots of pictures of God, they all show God with one arm, or as Wythe calls it, "the earth maker".

'til next time.....

Monday, January 5, 2015

Celebrating Hogmanay at Home

Hogmanay is Scotland's New Year's Eve celebration.  This is a very festive event, in the large cities it is a massive street party.  Some of the festivities include torch processions, fireworks, bagpipes and large bonfires. The Scots seem to celebrate New Year better than anywhere else in the world!

New Year's Eve is a busy day preparing to see the old year out and the new year in.  There are several things that are involved in preparing for Hogmanay. 
"Redding" the house - cleaning the house before midnight is traditional, as is cleaning out the fireplace.  Many believed that they could read the ashes to know what to expect from the coming year.  Another tradition called the "Saining" of the household involved the woman of the house purifying each room with a smoldering juniper branch. 
People also believed that all debts and loans should be paid off before the New Year began.  Entering the new year with outstanding debts was considered unlucky. 

Fire plays a big part in Hogmanay. In addition to the torch light processions bonfires are very popular. The use of fire to purify and drive away evil spirits is an ancient idea.  It is believed that they cannot have a new year until the old year has gone. Fire is used to "burn up" the old year and make way for the new year. In some towns dummies are made and burned in effigy to symbolize the old year being burned away and letting in the new year.

As in many countries the stroke of midnight brings kissing, well wishing and the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Another Hogmanay custom is First Footing. It literally means the "first foot" to step into a house in the new year.  After midnight, neighbors visit each other, bearing traditional symbolic gifts such as whisky, salt, shortbread, coal and black bun. These gifts were to ensure the household would be safe, warm and have enough to eat for the year.  The visitor, in turn, is offered a food and a wee dram of whisky. In order for the household to have good luck in the coming year the "first foot" over the threshold should be a dark haired male.  Redheads and blondes, especially women, were considered bad luck. 

In the morning the first person awake is supposed to take the Het Pint to the other family members. Het Pint is a mixture of ale, nutmeg, eggs, sugar and whisky.  This should give us an idea of the exuberant celebration that occurs for Hogmanay.   

New Year's Eve fire ~ after cleaning the ashes
Our Hogmanay celebration consisted of "redding the house" and Scottish food.  Considering we are in a rental house we figured huge bonfires might not be a great idea. I did want to go First Footing in our new neighborhood.  Since no one knows us it would have been great fun to knock on their doors after midnight. But we restrained ourselves....maybe next year in our next neighborhood!   At our old house we had neighbors where the women was a redhead and the man tall and dark.  She would come over to our house and spend the evening with us on New Year's Eve. When her husband got off of work he would come over to our house, arriving after midnight to be our "first footer".  Those were good years so the luck seems to work!

For dinner we had steak pie....
Scottish Steak Pie
mashed rutabagas and carrots.....
Mashed Rutabagas and carrots
Cullen Skink.... Not only is it fun to tell your family you are having "Cullen Skink" for dinner but it tastes good too!  It is a thick soup made with potatoes, onions and smoked haddock.  I had some trouble finding smoked haddock but eventually was able to get it.  The smoked haddock provides most of the flavor of the soup so I'm not sure how well another fish would work.
Cullen Skink
For dessert we had shortbread and Cranachan... Cranachan is a dessert made with raspberries, oatmeal, whipped cream, honey and whisky.


oatcakes and Scottish cheese

a wee dram
whisky for Hogmanay

not Scottish, but part of our traditions ~ champagne, Chambord, raspberries
a Hogmanay blessing
'til next time...