Thursday, 31 December 2009
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, six New Year's celebrations
It's 31 December 2009, which means that we're now counting down the hours to the beginning of a new decade.
You may well be planning to party in the New Year or carry out some familiar traditions - such as sing 'Auld Lang Syne' - so, to get you thinking, here are six familiar ways of welcoming in the New Year.
1) Watch Night
Many religious communities have a tradition of New Year's Eve being known as 'Watch Night'. The faithful of the community congregate to worship at services that commence on New Year's Eve night and which continue past midnight into the New Year. The Watch Night is a time for giving thanks for the blessings of the outgoing year and praying for divine favour during the upcoming year.
2) The Edinburgh Cannon
In Edinburgh the cannon is fired at Edinburgh Castle at the stroke of midnight.
Scotland celebrates New Year as Hogmanay, which is the Scots word for the last day of the year. The roots of Hogmanay reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic New Year's celebration of Samhain.
4) Auld Lang Syne
The Hogmanay custom of singing 'Auld Lang Syne' has become common in many countries. 'Auld Lang Syne' is a traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert Burns, which was later set to music. It is now common for this to be sung in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day. In Scotland the traditional practice is to cross arms only for the last verse.
5) First Footing
The practice of 'first-footing' starts immediately after midnight, and involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour's house, and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt, coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a type of rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder.
6) New Year's Resolutions
It is also customary to make New Year's resolutions, which individuals hope to fulfil in the coming year. The most popular resolutions in the West include to stop smoking or drinking, lose weight or get physically fit. What will you give up (or take up) in 2010?