28 December 2009
In praise of a sober morning celebration
A case against midnight revelry ...
"They adopted in short order their peculiar twin customs of Hogmanay and First Footing, designed to mark the sliding of one year into another, and by the 1680s they started organizing celebrations around them that eventually had us all getting off on this whole present-day New-Year-begins-at-midnight malarkey. Then a century later Robert Burns wrote the words to "Auld Lang Syne" and set it to a jaunty Scottish dance tune—and with that, and the provision on the last evening of December of copious draughts of whisky, so these normally dour and repressed northern peoples oversaw the beginning of the long decline of the old habit of marking New Year with ceremonies of dignified moderation and temporal respect.
I lived in Scotland for a while, and there was no escaping it. The precise nature of the partying varied from town to town: In one they would manufacture and dress up a gigantic herring and parade it through the streets, in another set ablaze huge smoking bonfires of juniper bushes, and in one fishing village on the North Sea coast, local lads well on in drink would set to swinging dangerous-looking chicken-wire fireballs around their heads, usually until someone got arrested or killed."
New Year's Eve is amateur night anyway ... better to spend the evening safely and peacefully at home, with a book, some drink, and quiet reflection. Read the rest here.