Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve Traditions

Image result for new years eveToday is New Year's Eve. Or if you're in Scotland, Hogmanay. Or, if you're in Wales, Nos Galan.
This is where tradition dictates you get totally and absolutely sloshed out of your mind, head-butt four random strangers in a game of No-I-Love-YOU-The-Most (this is where the Klingons got the ritual, in case you were wondering), urinate in a policeman's hat (but only if you're pregnant), and then forget where you live.
It's a tradition that dates back to the Norse over a thousand years ago, when Thor, the Asgard god of thunder and hair products, descended on Scotland during the dark days between Avengers films, to demonstrate the virtues of over-drinking and public displays of this-is-just-embarrassing-you-can't-get-married-to-a-lamppost.
There are some pretty strange and interesting local traditions around the United Kingdom.
For example, in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, in north-east Scotland, they have a rather dangerous way of celebrating the festivities. After the local blokes spend the entire day, evening and night consuming many gallons of cheap beer, lager and why-has-this-whiskey-not-killed-me-yet, they pretend they are Klingons, and then set their balls on fire.
Oh, I jest you not.
They really do.
The locals construct massive balls of chicken wire (two feet in diameter), stuff them with old newspapers, sticks, rags and other flammable materials, attach the balls to a chain, or non-flammable rope (because, yes, that's the type of rope you want in a situation like this), and then, when the bells strike midnight, they set fire to their balls.
Crowds of 12,000 people have gathered to watch the locals walking up and down the High Street, swinging their massive flaming balls around in circles above their heads. The Stonehaven Fireballs tradition has been going on for over 150 years. Check out the Stonehaven Fireballs website for details: 
In Allendale, Northumberland, England, their merriment is cut short for the Tar Barl Ceremony. A tradition dating back to 1858.
The local 'Guisers' gulp down an entire barrel of whiskey, usually in one gulp, and then fill them with tar. Now, I know what you're thinking: no one can drink an entire whiskey barrel in one gulp. Most normal people take between three gulps and nine hundred thousand sips and three hundred years for one barrel. But these Guisers are a hardy bunch. They aren't known as One-Gulp-Guisers for nothing.
And besides, they need all that whiskey to cope with the pain that follows.
After the obligatory belch and seven hiccoughs (that's one belch and seven hiccoughs, no more, no less), they set the tar on fire and put the barrel on their heads.
What the heck? Are you kidding?
Nope. Not kidding.
They carry the burning barrels, on their heads, through the streets of Allendale to the town centre. At which point no-one is complaining about the freezing temperatures, just how slow those in front are walking.
They then head-butt the barrels onto a bonfire, called the Baal Fire, and shout, "Be damned to he who throws last."
Usually, this is quite apt. As the guy who throws last is on fire.
Side note: Allendale has the highest concentration of bald men anywhere in England (No one is quite sure why). And the highest count of "Death-By-Headbutting-A-Burning-Barrel-Of-Tar" anywhere in Britain. Northampton was second. Mostly by accident. The guy was trying to recreate a scene from Lord of the Rings. It didn't go well.
In Wales, New Year's Eve is called "Nos Galan".
There is a tradition called Mari Lwyd in the land of the dragon, and, strangely, it doesn't actually involve fire. Or a dragon.
Very disappointing.
Instead, false ears and eyes are attached to a horse's skull, along with bells, reins and ribbons, and then it's covered with a white sheet, before inserting a pole right up its.... well, skull. They don't bother with the rest of the horse.
The Mari Lwyd, or, the thing you wouldn't want the Mafia to put on your pillow, is carried from house to house by a crowd of merry-makers, who are traditionally tipsy and singing Tom Jones songs.
At each house, they pause their tributes to Tom Jones, to recite Welsh poetry. Which, because the merry-makers are hammered, sounds a lot like Klingon poetry. Those in the house then recite poetry back at the them. This goes back and forth a bit until someone wins the fight. Yep, that's how the Welsh fight. Not with fists and feet, but with Klingon poetry.

If only the wars of the past were fought under Welsh rules.

No guns.

No bombs.

Just a few well written poems spoken with passion in the romantic language of the Klingons, whilst holding the bow-and-ribbon-decorated head of a dead horse.

To end the New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay, or Nos Galan celebrations is a tradition started by the Scottish and carried around the world. The folding of arms and holding of hands and the singing For Auld Lang Syne, a traditional poem by Robert Burns, a Scottish Poet, played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

So, wherever you are, whoever you be, have a Happy New Year, and Oche Aye Your Hogmanay.

1 comment:

Dena Pawling said...

I have a few observations, not having become entirely sloshed yet. I have to wake up at 530 Friday morning to get my #3 son to the drop-off point for his church group's winter retreat. Sometimes life's just not fair.

>>urinate in a policeman's hat (but only if you're pregnant), and then forget where you live.

After urinating in a policeman's hat, it is advised to forget both your name AND where you live. This keeps you from the requirement to accept room and board courtesy of the state.

>>Crowds of 12,000 people have gathered to watch the locals walking up and down the High Street, swinging their massive flaming balls around in circles above their heads.

I worked downtown Los Angeles today, leaving at 3pm. At the time I left, the entire downtown area was blocked off for a New Year's Eve party. I probably encountered 12,000 vehicles, all trying to leave the area via the same two roads which were still available. I won't tell you how long it took me to get home, but the good news is, I did get home, in one piece, and with my car intact.

>>At each house, they pause their tributes to Tom Jones, to recite Welsh poetry. Which, because the merry-makers are hammered, sounds a lot like Klingon poetry.

Which begs the question -- how does this compare to Vogon poetry?

Happy New Year!