Hogmanay – Oidhche Challainn

This business of counting down to midnight in the last ten seconds of Hogmanay annoys me. I’m a traditionalist, and I know fine well that the countdown might be a tradition for some people, but it isn’t for me. For generations the Scots have celebrated Hogmanay as a time of reflection at the close of the year waiting for the bells – whereupon the real celebration begins; looking forward to the year ahead. As a nipper I remember my great-grandparents and grandparents holding it quietly. I remember my parents doing the same. My granny would bake shortbread for each of her children’s families, and my dad would brew ginger beer – a near toxic concoction of sugar and ginger extract. None of this was touched until the bells. The house would be scrubbed from top to bottom, as would all the people living therein and all were assembled in the parlour for midnight.

A little sadness hung in the room that we didn’t quite understand as children, but we do now. Everyone would remember the past. Not just the year now passing, but the past. We miss people and times in the past. We remember their faces and the things that they said. We miss them. The other faces around us are of the people with who we want to share this time, and it is in them and with them that we will find the cause to celebrate and rejoice at the stroke of midnight, but that time is not yet – so we hod our whisht and remember. Looking around Dublin in the pouring rain, all of this is memory; another time and in another place. Here people are getting ready to count down. Drunken noise-making dulls the sight of the inner eyes, and perhaps that is what they want here. Maybe this is their tradition.
It isn’t mine.

Here’s tae us
Wha’s like us
Damn few,
And they’re a’ deid
Mair’s the pity!

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