11 January 2020 – Old New Year's Day

Some history, but not a lot. In the 16th century, calendars changed from Julian to Gregorian and we lost 11 days. However, rather than lose an opportunity for a party, Scotland kept the Old New Year, as well as adopting the New New Year. And so the New New Year happens on 1 January, and the Old New Year happens today. And while tonight the Burning of the Clavie is happening in Burghead on the Moray Firth to celebrate, due to being very down south, instead today was all about redding and saining, two more New Year Scottish traditions. 

So what is redding and saining? Firstly they are two different activities. Redding is the cleaning of one’s home, a bit like a spring clean but at New Year so that you’re all set for the coming one, and saining is the cleansing of one’s home of evil spirits, also at New Year, but also at other times, and not always to do with homes, or evil spirits. But I cocked up because redding is done on Hogmanay and not on New Year’s Day, either one. But given my home was a bit worse for wear after the festivities, the start of the project, and the essay deadline, I ate some chocolate and got stuck in. The cat helped. And when I say helped, I mean she left me two piles of vomit on the carpet. But despite that, the cleaning was quite cathartic, and I found I had five tea towels in play. Then I looked up redding again to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, and found out I’d cocked up again, as it is, in fact, bad luck to redd(?) on New Year’s Day, and I had just cleaned away all my luck. Which might explain why when I opened my fridge to make some lunch, I managed to flood it, and the floor, with lime juice from a badly closed bottle. BUT with five tea towels in play, with a quick swipe, I sopped and mopped and all was well, if a little zesty. 

Next up was saining. As with all of my trying outs, they are in the spirit of, rather to the letter, but always with respect. First, I closed all the windows so the juniper smoke would be held in. I hate closing windows, much evidenced by the large amount of cobwebs I found on the latches (might have to work on my redding technique). Then, using a bottle of holy water from the Vatican I’d been given years ago, and walking in a sunwise direction, I went through, starting in the kitchen, sprinkling the water into all the corners. Not being religious, I thought it a little hypocritical to ask for favours, so I just said general thank yous (you never know who is listening). Then I took my freshly dried foraged juniper twig from yesterday, and lit it off the hob, the green needles going up with a very pleasing crackle. Then I dove for the kitchen door as I’d forgotten to close it and the smoke alarm is just outside. As I wafted, bright orange and gold embers fell and flickered out on the lino. I had to relight several times as I moved from room to room. The smoke was a thick, medium grey. The smell was a bit like the bidis I used to smoke as a teenager, woody, a bit tangy. Unfortunately, the smoke, mixed with the lime, the toilet spray and the carpet cleaner all got a bit much and I felt a little green. So, taking a wee nip of whisky to finish off warding away any residual nasties, I opened all the windows back up, and all was well. Except maybe the carpet, as one of the burning needles fell off and I trod on it. 

So all in all a good day, although were I to do them again, I’d probably do them on the correct days, if just to let the smell of one have the chance to get out of the way of the other. Happy New Year!

Ps. According to Culpeper, juniper ash can be used as a cure for scurvy, the itch, scabs and leprosy. But I wouldn’t recommend it…


Resources

Chainey, D. (2018) A Treasury of British Folklore: Maypoles, Mandrakes and Mistletoe, London, National Trust Books

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Culpeper (1995) Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, Ware, Wordsworth Editions Ltd

Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-burning-of-the-clavie-burghead-scotland

http://www.burghead.com/clavie/

https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/researchguidance/datingdocuments/juliangregorian.aspx

https://www.nts.org.uk/stories/scottish-christmas-traditions

http://www.tairis.co.uk/practices/saining-juniper/

http://www.tairis.co.uk/practices/saining-ritual/

https://www.tripsavvy.com/hogmanay-traditions-in-scotland-1661711

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2 Comments

  1. Michele Marsh
    12 January 2020
    Reply

    Whisky is the best cure all for all ailments physical and spiritual
    As an aside since you chat about Scottish traditions my chum and I are going to Edinburgh after Uncle Vanya next month any tips? Recommendations ? Folklore included most welcome

    • 12 January 2020
      Reply

      I’m very jealous, I love Edinburgh! And whisky is the absolute best.
      Nothing is coming to mind about at the mo for recommendations (I’ve usually been head down trying to survive the Festival when I’ve been up there), but I do remember a lovely hat shop in the Grassmarket that’s worth a visit, if you like hats… Have a lovely time!

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