Happy Hogmanay!

While New Year’s Eve is celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event – and have their own name for it, Hogmanay.

During the Protestant Reformation Christmas was considered a Catholic feast and was not celebrated as a festival. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and to exchange presents, especially for the children, which came to be called Hogmanay.

There are traditions before midnight such as cleaning the house on December 31st (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common). There is also the superstition to clear all your debts before “the bells” at midnight.

Perhaps the most traditional part of the celebration is “First footing” (that is, the “first foot” in the house after midnight). It originated in the belief that the first person who came through the house in the first few minutes of the new year as the bells ring at midnight would bring good luck. To ensure good luck for the house, the visitor would bring symbolic coal, a bottle of whiskey, and some type of food. Depending upon the region, this could be oatcakes, black bun, or shortbread.

In the spirit of the season, the Chemung County Library District would like to say “Happy Hogmanay” to all our patrons. To help out with the clearing of your debts, and “first footing,” the library is offering an amnesty on fines, not fees for lost materials, from Dec. 27 through Dec. 30. All fines, up to $20.00 will be waived for Chemung County Library District materials only. Bring a non-perishable food item for each $5.00 in fines to our Community Missions bin and return your overdue books, tapes, CDs and videos fine-free.