DECEMBER 31ST/ JANUARY 1ST
As we get ready to celebrate the new year, we think of our favorite moments from the past one as we set upon the winds our wishes for the next. It is a truly mystical time during the winter solstice period that for me unofficially begins on the Autumn Equinox which starts my love of holiday festivities from Samhain until Hogmany (New Year’s Day). Hogmanay is the Norse festival that is still to this day the Scottish celebration of New Year’s. All the elements are there as far libation, feasting, and merriment. Observed on December 31, festivities typically spill over into the first couple of days of January. In fact, there's a tradition known as "first-footing", in which the first person to enter a home brings the residents good luck for the coming year. The guest preferred being dark-haired and preferably male. Gifts are exchanged, and one of the popular food items on the Hogmanay menu is the black bun, which is a really rich fruitcake.
Drinking and positive revelry are crucial for me on New Year’s Eve/Hogmanay because the mood and feelings that you end the old year and begin the new year provide the positive energy that will carry you through the entire year. Drinking and having wonderful company with family and friends that ring in the new year with the traditional singing of "Auld Lang Syne". But for my personal empowerment when beginning the new year is my traditional midday feast of ham, collard greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread and mashed potatoes. The roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain.
Most people celebrate Modraniht, old English for Mothers-Night, on December 24th but the original time of this festival was New Year’s Night, January 1st. In my family it was celebrated midday on the 1st with a big feast held at my grandmother’s house and all the families would gather around or visit throughout the day to eat. It was a lovely time that allowed our family to “unofficially close the fall and winter holiday season with one last feast which is where I gained my tradition of my New Year’s Day lucky food feast. Modraniht for me is a New Year’s Day festival just as it was in it’s original time. Mōdraniht was, and still is to some considered a Heathen festival that marks the Anglo-Saxon New Year. Others argue that it has it is not a Heathen festival. Either way it is a day to honor mothers and those mother/matron deities depicted on votive objects and altars that bear images of goddesses, depicted almost entirely in groups of three.
Yuletide festivities conclude on Twelfth Night. The festival day that ends Yule will sync with New Year’s Eve. A last big festival to celebrate a new year, celebrate the passing of the darkest and to look forward to the lengthening days and warming temperatures. The Yule nights end on Twelfth night when we burn a Yule log, give gifts, and feast (especially on ham and pork) We swear our oaths for the coming year on the sacred boar on Twelfth Night. Now, it is tradition to swear our oaths on a sun-wheel, and then toss it into the fire as a part of our yearly Yule celebration. On Twelfth Night, we take down our Yule trees and pack up our Yule decorations for the year. This is the end of Yule and the old year. If you use a real tree then save the trunk for next year’s yule log.
All these festivals share the same themes of remembrance, resolution built on the tradition of celebrations, feasts and good luck for the coming year. Whether you celebrate one or do as I and incorporate all the spirit and tradition from the many to make one colorful tradition the point is to end the year with a wonderful, positive energy filled with a reverence for the old and a great outlook for the coming of the new. Friends, Family, Food and Fun will carry you throughout the Year and throughout your life if you allow it.