Some of you will know I was born and grew up in Scotland. Hogmanay (seeing the New Year in) is a big event in Scotland – bigger than Christmas. At this time of year I sometimes miss the customs we grew up with, like making sure your house was cleaned on the last day of the year so that the dirt in it didn’t carry any existing bad luck into the new year (maybe I should try that one), and the way that all the ships on the Clyde and out at sea would sound their foghorns on the stroke of midnight to scare the evil spirits away so that they didn’t follow you into the next year.
And of course the well-known tradition of ‘first-footing’ where, ideally, a tall dark man should appear on your doorstep just after midnight, holding a lump of coal to symbolise the wish that you always have fuel for your fire, and handing it over with the greeting ‘Lang may yer lum reek’ (Long may your chimney smoke). This one, understandably, was usually set up in advance and often involved a member of the Hogmanay party being propelled out into the cold five minutes before midnight, clutching a lump of smokeless fuel or the nearest anyone could get to real coal, and not being allowed back in until the chimes had sounded – but at least when he finally got back into the warmth he’d be greeted with a ‘wee dram’ of whisky, so there were compensations.
But one of the things I most miss about Scotland, and the Glasgow area in particular, is its humour, and that often comes out strongly in its choice of New Year toasts. This one is probably my favourite:
Here’s tae us! Wha’s like us? Damn few, and they’re a’ deid. Mair’s the pity.
(Translation – Here’s to us! Who’s like us? Damn few, and they’re all dead. More’s the pity.)
I’m also rather fond of this one:
May those who love us, love us; And those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts; And if he doesn’t turn their hearts may he turn their ankles; So we will know them by their limping!
But I’ll offer you something with a little more gravitas as a wish for a wonderful 2013 for everyone (translation follows at the end!):
May the best ye hae ivver seen be the warst ye’ll ivver see.
May the moose ne’er lea’ yer girnal wi a tear-drap in its ee.
May ye aye keep hail an hertie till ye’r auld eneuch tae dee.
May ye aye juist be sae happie as A’ wuss ye aye tae be.
And in English –
May the best you’ve ever seen be the worst you’ll ever see.
May the mouse ne’er leave your grain store with a tear drop in its eye.
May you stay full hale and hearty till you’re old enough to die.
May you always be as happy as I wish you all to be.
Happy 2013 everyone!