When I was growing up in Scotland, I was excited about Christmas. My mother would have our mantelpiece decorated with holly and mistletoe and I would hang up my stocking (usually my dad’s as they were bigger!) and I would take off to bed at an early hour, waiting for the magic of Christmas morning.
As all young children do, I woke up at an early hour, worried about going into our living room, in case Santa Claus was still there, or even worse, he had not come yet! I would lie in my bed, counting the minutes until I thought it was safe to get up.
After the festivities of opening gifts and then eating large quantities of food, Christmas day would draw to a close. Now the real holiday spirit would take place, at New Year’s Eve.
The planning for this special event would just about take all of the preceding week to complete. Mother would be busy baking all week, so many scrumptious cakes and delicacies, that we were not allowed to touch, under peril of our lives! The main meat dishes at New Years Eve, were a large leg of Pork, a Turkey, and a Virginia Ham. They were usually cooked the day before, so that they could be sliced cold, Happy new year images as in a buffet. They would be accompanied by home made applesauce, cranberry relish and other pickles.
Our vegetables would be mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, turnip, greens, parsnips and carrots. We did not have broccoli or corn, at that time in Scotland, as a vegetable. There would be fruit cakes, especially Dundee cake, Cherry cake, Sultana cake, and of course, Black Bun! Now Black Bun is very spicy, it is a fruit filling encased in pastry, and has to be made days in advance to let the liquor seep though into the filling. It was a traditional cake to give those people that entered your home after the stroke of midnight.
At about 7pm on New Years eve, my mother would set up our dining room table full of all these wondrous dishes, and mixed aroma would fill the room. My father would then get out the bottles of
alcohol and mixes, that would then be displayed on our coffee table, along with all of the appropriate stemware.
We would all get dressed in our “best” clothes and wait for the clock to chime midnight. My father would step outside our front door, just before the chimes would sound from our local church, and he would wait there until the chimes had ceased. He would be carrying a lump of coal and a bottle of whiskey, as this was our tradition. A dark haired man(which he was) was to be the first person through the door after midnight, and he must carry coal to give to the occupants. If a fair haired person was the first to knock your door, then they would not be allowed in until a dark haired person came. Too bad if it was really cold or snowing, but tradition must be upheld!