The bells, the bells

Rowdy if not downright licentious behaviour on Hogmanay has a long, not completely honourable, history in Scotland. Since time immemorial folk have gathered at a stone circle or the town cross on New Year’s Eve, as Thom Dibdin, our man with the hip flask, finds out.

An arbitrary point on the calendar. the new year fell on 25 March until 1600 when it was moved to its current date. This was fortunate for hedonists. as shortly after this, all Christmas festivities were banned. One Glaswegian baker was even gaoled for baking the Christmas bread. All the pagan midwinter festivities which had been subsumed by Christianity left the religious arena and became associated with Hogmanay.

The word ‘Hogmanay‘ did not appear until the 17th century and is said to come from the Norman hoguinané. Popular etymology derives this from the French au gui l’an neuf— ‘to the mistletoe the New Year' from the Druidical custom of gathering that powerful plant.

Kissing tor luck has long been a widespread custom.

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Kissing for luck. and not just under '

a mistletoe branch. has been a widespread custom. In 1857. one Edinburgh observer wrote that women who had walked abroad without fear had to return home from the bells. ‘creeping along close to the wall. thinking to gain their houses without being discovered‘.

For the most part though. the festivities turn on the need to be out and about over the midnight period. Then as now. the meeting points were the Tron Kirk on Edinburgh's High Street. and George Square in Glasgow. In the early 1800s Edinburgh‘s streets were reported to be ‘more thronng between twelve and one in the morning than they usually were at midday‘. This tradition was somewhat diminished in 1812 when a gang ofyouths set up a pickpocketing club. aiming at anybody who wore a white neckcloth.

The ‘Het Pint‘ a concoction of warm spiced ale laced with spirits was the forerunner of a half bottle of Grouse. It would be carried around the streets in a large kettle and passed about. Once the bearers had seen midnight pass. they would go off on their first-footing expeditions. visiting as many houses as they could before they either ran out of pals or fell over in the gutter.

Getting home

So. your absoluter blambered. it‘s 2.30am on New Year's Day. and you’d prefer to deposit your stomach contents into a receptacle in the solitude ofyour own bathroom. How do you get home‘.’ Ifyou suddenly remember the car keys in your pocket. FORGET THEM! Catch a bus.

In Edinburgh. 21 normal LRT service will run until 11.30pm. After midnight. a special free Night Bus service has been arranged. Numbers 101 to 106 will leave Waverley

half hour until the last bus at 3.15am. Night Bus service has failed to find a

back from your carry-out money. The normal Saturday night/Sunday morning service will be operating from George Square.

Between the cities, the last train will leave both Waverley and Queen Street stations at 9.30pm.

Christmas Eve Midnight Services

Scottish Episcopal

Cathedral Church ofSt Mary. Palmerston Place. Edinburgh: Midnight Mass at 11.30pm.

Cathedral Church ofSt Mary the

Virgin. 300 Great Western Road. Glasgow: Midnight Mass at 11.30pm.

Church oi Scotland

St Giles Cathedral. High Street. Edinburgh: Watchnight service at 11.30pm. Glasgow Cathedral, Castle Street. Glasgow: Watchnight service


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Roman Catholic

St Marys Cathedral. York Place. Edinburgh: Carol Service at 11.30pm. Midnight Mass at midnight. St Andrews Cathedral. Dunlop Street. Glasgow: Carol Service at 11.30pm. Midnight Mass at midnight.

Are you cut out for sex

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The List 18 December 1992 14 January 1993 5