NAE dout, gin the time ye read this, ye’ll be recuiverin frae the scowth an rowth o Yule an luikin forrit tae anither breenge wi the scowth an rowth o Hogmanay an Ne’erday!?

Aiblins, a wheen o oor auncient Scottish Hogmanay tradeetions are nou dwinin awa; customs an practices that wir aince common in wir villages, touns an ceeties arenae sae common ony mair. The Bacchanalian orgies o Ne’erday drinkin are nou a thing o the past – tho nae dout some haurd pressed A&E staff micht disagree wi me!?

Drink sensibly is nou the order o the day, an sad experience hus tocht me tae intersperse ony saisonal drams wi frequent glesses o watter (the ordinary tap variety an no the aquae vitae!). Hangovers are fir thaim wha fail tae mend and adjust their drucken weys!

The first-footin o neebors’ hooses eftir the chappin o twal oan Hogmanay, in order tae bring guid luck fir the furthcomin year, juist disnae heppen the wey it did. Tall, daurk-heidit men bearin dauds o coal – or dauds o black bun – are rerrly tae be seen (unless readers can tell me ither wyce!?). These gifts, mind, wir harbingers o prosperity an guid luck, handselin in the new year, that rax back til the superstitious dim, daurk distant ages o Scotland’s past.

The origins o the wird Hogmanay itsel are aqually tint in thon misty past; thair some wha ettle it cams frae the Scandinavian wird fir the feast jist afore Yule, “Hoggo-nott”; whiles “hoog min dag” in Flemish – a leid whilk haes gien mony braw wirds tae Scotland – means “great love day”. Whether thon’s “free love” or verra expensive love is entirely up tae yersels!!

Mind, a mair likely source micht cam doun throu the Auld Alliance wi oor Celtic cousins in France wi their auld saw “homme est ne” or “man is born”, whilk wis a tradeetional New Year’s greetin across the Englis sheuch. The last day o the year – “aguillaneuf” – wis when gifts wis shared amang faimilies an neebors, whiles in Normandy presaints gien at that time wir “hoguignetes”! Ah think ah’d pit ma siller oan the French connection!

Ane o the first kent mentions o the term cams frae the Presbyterian kirk, whilk wrote in 1693: “It is ordinary among some plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year’s Eve, crying Hagmane.” Nae dout three hunner odd year later a few haurdy exaumpils o thae samen “plebians” wull still be staucherin aboot oan Hogmanay!

But here an there in Scotland some braw auld customs dinnae dwine awa tho! An in certain airts there are sichts tae be seen that huvnae chaingt fir centuries; alang the heich street an past the mercat cross o Stonehaven muckle flamin balls swung oan chains abune fowks heids are heftit an then hurlt intil the harbour; the Uppies an Doonies o Kirkwall gaither oan New Year’s Day fir the annual Ba’ gemm, whaur a michty scrum vies fir hours tae bear the gree o this age auld tournament! ; the Loony Dookers tak tae the snell, cranreuch watters o South Queensferry an hae a soom tae raise siller fir chusen charities; at Biggar an undeemous bonfire wull be heized an set alowe forenent the Corn Exchange… an then we hae Embra!

The Hogmanay celebrations in Embra hae growne ower the last decade or twae intae ane o the best celebrations o its kind in the warld; easily up there wi the Eiffel Touer in Paris, or Sydney Harbour Brig in Australia. Aiblins mair as quarter a million fowk wull gaither at Princes Street in Embra this (neist!?) year tae handsel in Ne’erday as Embra Castle provides a warthy canvas fir a kaleidoscope o pyrotechnics tae rival ony o thae ither kenspeckle oangauns. Tho mind an hap yersel up waarm – twa pair o socks an thermals is the order o the day!! Fir Scots wha are nae sae adventurous, but wha still like tae see the new year in wi faimily an friens, the hoose wull be redd up an made spotless frae end tae end (anither auld chairm agin bad luck!) – tho the auld custom o burnin some juniper tae ward aff the evil-eye wull no be a thing that heppens ony mair? Else, aiblins clearin aff some o yer Christmas credit caird bills micht ettle as a modren substitute? Handsel in Ne’erday wi a clean slate!? We hae tae muive wi the times!?

Then, as the bells ring oot, we’ll aa link airms, grup oor neebor’s haund, an sing the great sang o aa humanity, Auld Lang Syne tae walcum in the New Year! Thae airms wull syne link aa roond the warld, frae Times Square tae Timbuktu; nae matter the colour, creed, race or releegion o the fowk, we’ll aa sing in howps o a better mair peaceful warld;

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

And gie’s a hand o thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!

Hae a canty Hogmanay, an a braw Ne’erday friens! Kindness is the key richt enow! Rax oot yer haund tae frien an stranger alike, an may Scotland haud forrit in 2018!