I love New Year. It's probably the Scot in me, but also the romantic. I love the idea of a fresh, new year all laid out in front of me, like a blank sheet of paper waiting to be filled in any way that I choose.
In my hometown of Biggar, we gather together on Hogmanay and start a procession up through the streets. The elders of the town carry huge flaming torches, and the children walk behind them with smaller burning torches. The pipe band swirls and we all march behind the torch bearers up to the head of the town, and then stand around while the oldest person in the village is given the honour of lighting the fire. This enormous bonfire is built up slowly in the weeks leading up to Hogmanay. It's often a bitterly cold night, but the bonfire goes up in the way that you might expect, given the amount of parafin that has been thrown on. It's unbearably hot if you're standing next to the fire, and as soon as you turn away to worm your way back through the packed crowd, you're frozen to the bone. There are some great photos of the process by a local photographer here.
The important tradition for us is to burn out the 'bad spirits' at the end of the old year, to welcome in the new one. And to get really drunk and dance around a massive fire of course. The pubs in the town take down all their pictures and cover everything in sheets, and how there hasn't been any kind of major catastrophe is beyond me, but it's great fun. In the past, the houses next to the fire used to be thatched, and they would employ people to sit up on the roofs and bang out the sparks. Nowadays they have a railing around the fire and a semblance of health and safety, but all within good Scots parameters of course. During the war, when the lighting of a great big fire in the street was slightly against the blackout rules, they lit a candle in a box, to signifty the upholding of the tradition.
This year, far away from my homeland, I saw the new year in at home with the children tucked up in bed upstairs and my husband sitting next to me on the sofa. I even had to phone him (he was just upstairs, but hey, I'm quite lazy) and remind him it was nearly midnight so that he'd come down and see it in with me. Not many people around here 'get' New Year. Nevertheless, I felt emotional when the clock began to chime midnight. It's hard to explain, but it's that feeling of something ending and something beginning, and all the things that have passed and are yet to be. I know many say it's just another day, but it doesn't feel like that to me. A lone singer and a verse or two of Auld Lang Syne can reduce me to a weepy mess quite easily (not so much the lairy, hand shaking, speedy version of it that tends to get sung at New Year though!)
So here we are - 2013. I have to say, 2012 was pretty good on the whole. Some ups and some downs of course with some times of unhappiness, but nobody lost along the way this year. Some good friendships were cemented. Many happy times were had. Some really, really ridiculous tummy-hurting laughs were shared. Still in love. Privileged to watch my beautiful son and daughter grow.
I have big plans for 2013, though, and some decisions that I made in 2012 will hopefully turn out to be good ones. Arran will start school this year and Eilidh will turn two in just a few days. I don't so much have New Year's resolutions this year so much as a general feeling that I just want to be better. I want to work that bit harder and be the best version of myself that I can possibly be, because my precious people so deserve it.
Loved ones, as the Scottish New Year blessing goes:
May the best ye've ever seen
Be the worst ye'll ever see.
May the moose ne'er leave yer girnal
Wi' a tear drap in his e'e.
May ye aye keep hale an' he'rty
Till ye're auld eneuch tae dee.
May ye aye be jist as happy
As we wish ye aye tae be.
May the best you've ever seen
Be the worst you'll ever see.
May the mouse never leave your pantry
With a tear drop in his eye.
May you always keep hale and hearty (well)
Till you're old enough to die.
May you always be just as happy
As we wish you always to be.
Happy New Year!