Happy Hogmannay

My mother was not the world's best or most enthusiastic housekeeper. I like to think, therefore, that I come by my own housekeeping aversion the honest way: genetically. However, it's a Scottish tradition to get one's house in tip-top shape before the New Year. It's good luck. Or maybe it represents order in the year to come. Or something. Whatever it is, I usually spend the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve getting my house sorted and in good shape. Closets have been emptied and their contents whittled down into various piles for recycling or donating to charities. I have been ruthless in letting go of things I haven't worn in more than a year, knick knacks that have no meaning and only gather dust, videotapes I haven't watched since, well, anyone watched videotapes. It's embarrassing to note how much stuff one owns, even after the paring back.

It's also embarrassing how much cat hair can gather in corners, merge together in clumps under the bed as though trying to form a brand new kitten. But the corners are clean, the shelves dusted, my desk sorted, files filed. (The dining room looks like a garage sale exploded in it or as though we're trying to open our own Goodwill, but that's my compromise to not getting everything done and out of the house before midnight rolls around.)

Now Chris and I are settling in for the evening. There's a fire working its way towards a roar. We've movies to watch, although it was pretty slim pickings by the time we hit the video store. And there's a winter storm on the way, up to eight inches of snow tonight, with another two possible tomorrow. It is, in my estimation, a good way to spend New Year's Eve. For some reason, ever since I was a little girl and we moved to the United States, I've found it a kind of melancholy occasion. No one does New Year's Eve like the Scots, who call it Hogmannay.

In fact, as I write this, the bells are probably just ringing out across Glasgow. Folks are setting out first-footing, an old Scottish tradition in which you try to be the first one to step foot across someone's doorstep in the New Year, bringing with you a gift of coal or wood (to bring warmth for the new year), something to drink and something to eat (promising plenty of sustenance for the year to come.) When I was little, my Grandpa was usually our first-footer and while my memories of it are pretty shaky, owing more perhaps to the retelling than to actual recollection, it brings up some very bittersweet feelings for times past, and a heavy dose of homesickness for a land that I haven't called home since I was nine. I always think of Scotland and get weepy when I hear Auld Lang Syne, but not necessarily in a bad way. I think it's always emotional to let go of the past and embrace new beginnings.

Thus, I wish all of you a safe and wonderful New Year's Eve. But, especially, to my friends and loved ones in Scotland -- know that I am thinking of you, wishing I was on the streets of Glasgow, watching as people throw open the windows on the Victorian sandstone tenements to let the old year out and the new one in. Happy Hogmannay!