December sees once
again the approach of The Daft Days (24December to 6 January) and its
great highlight, in Scottish terms, which is Hogmanay (31 December).
There is great debate over how the last day in the year gained that name
in Scotland, most answers lean towards a French connection, but there is
no doubt that it has played a significant part in Scottish life over
many centuries. But why, for example in Burghead on the Moray Firth, is
Hogmanay not celebrated until the 11th of January? It all
goes back to
when the Westminster Government decided to harmonise Britain’s calendar
with the continental Gregorian one, which required eleven days to be
dropped from the calendar. Consequently eleven days were simply drooped
from the calendar in September of that year. The public were incensed
and calls were made to be given back the eleven days which they felt had
been stolen from them. In many areas people just ignored the government
decree and stuck with the Old Style calendar – hence in Burghead their
New Year Clavie burning is still held on the old date.
Burghead and its
fire-burning ceremony is a reminder of how important fire was to our
fore-bears as a sign of renewal. Fire continued to play a large part in
welcoming the New Year up to the first quarter of the 20th
century and in towns and villages bone-fires were a common sight the
length and breadth of Scotland. Nowadays fire ceremonies can still be
enjoyed in Biggar, Comrie and Stonehaven on 31 December, and as noted
eleven days later in Burghead.
tradition was to supply a hugh copper kettle of Het Pint, basically
mulled ale, which was carried through the streets for the benefit of
revellers. Our recipe this week is non-alcoholic but is like Het Pint, a
warming refreshment, and in its own right another Hogmanay tradition.
Ginger Wine is a great favourite of bairns of all ages and it packs a
punch but without the fear of a hangover!
Ginger Wine or
2oz (50g) root ginger; 2 lemons; 2 oranges; 1 gallon (3.8 litres)
water; 3 1/2 lbs (1.5 kg) sugar; small pinch of cayenne pepper
the ginger up, .and boil it with one gallon of water and the rind of the
oranges and lemons. Add a small pinch of cayenne pepper during boiling.
Strain the liquid into a container holding the sugar. Add the juice of
the lemons and oranges. Strain and bottle, Makes approximately one
gallon – if you wish a milder brew use rather less ginger and miss out
the cayenne pepper.