Winter Time
Scottish Celebrations

Feature article by Nancy (Sinclair) Neill from Litir à Clann (Family Newsletter), Volume 2 Number 2 (November 1988), edited by R.M. "Mac" Sinclair of Kingston, Ontario. Sadly, this article, with suggestions and recipes for a Hogmanay party, was Nancy's last.

Major celebrations for the Scots occur during the winter months and include:


The "magic moment" of the year is the last stroke of midnight on the last day of the year; and it is a time for everyone to be up and about, wishing each other well.

With this in mind, here is some background information, recipe ideas, tips and suggestions which might entice you, your clan members, Scottish friends and family into having a "Hogmanay Party" this New Year's Eve, for a change. Enjoy!!!


The "First Foot" is the first person to cross the threshold of your home immediately after midnight, i.e. in the New Year. He, for it has to be a man, should also be tall and dark. He must carry with him a lump of coal or peat, to start the new year's fire, and a full bottle of whisky (Scotch, of course).

In Scotland, many tall dark men make a practise of going from house to house as a "first footer". He must be properly prepared for the job, or things might go awry... Your "first footer" should be arranged for when planning your Hogmanay party; and he might even be invited to bring his own "tokens of warmth and good cheer". Hopefully, your "first footer" will be a welcome guest and will join in the spirit(s) of the party.


3 oz. oatmeal
2 tbsp. liquid heather honey
1 pint water
Scotch Whisky

Add water to oatmeal until a medium paste is formed. Leave stand for ½ hour and then pass through a fine strainer, pressing mixture against strainer with a wooden spoon. Discard the meal. Mix the creamy liquid with the honey. Stir and make up 2 pints with Scotch. Cork and shake.

Serve alone or topped with whipped cream sprinkled with fine, lightly toasted oatmeal.


½ oz. sweet vermouth
6-8 ice cubes
3 oz. Scotch Whisky
1 strip orange peel

Combine Scotch and vermouth in a mixing glass and fill with ice cubes. Stir gently to chill and dilute the drink, then pour through a strainer into a cocktail glass. Twist the orange peel over rim of the glass.

(If using dry vermouth, use 1 tsp. and 3½ oz. Scotch.)


5 eggs
8 oz. pork sausage meat
1 tsp. mixed herbs
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 oz. browned breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. flour
fat for frying
salt and pepper

Hard boil 4 of the eggs....pour off this water and fill pan with cold. When cooled, shell the eggs.

Season the flour and dust the eggs with it. Mix the herbs and parsley into the sausage meat, and divide it into four. Cover each hard cooked egg with sausage meat.

Lightly beat the uncooked egg....brush the Scots eggs with it and roll them in breadcrumbs. Fry the Scots eggs in deep fat, turning them occasionally, until they are golden brown...Drain on paper towel.

Slice each Scots egg into 5 or 6 slices and serve on serving plates as savouries.


Black Bun is a rich and delicious fruit cake formerly eaten on Twelfth Night, but now served at Hogmanay. It should be made a few weeks before it is wanted, like Christmas cake, so that it can mature.

For the Casing

8 oz. (2 cups) flour
4 oz. (½ cup) butter
½ tsp. baking powder
about 4 tbsp. water
1 beaten egg for finishing

To make the Casing

Rub the butter into the flour, add baking powder and mix to a stiff paste with water. Put on a floured board and roll to a thin sheet. Grease a loaf tin 8 ins. square and line with the pastry, keeping back enough for the lid.

For the Filling

2 lbs. seedless raisins
3 lbs. currants
½ lb. chopped, blanched almonds
3 cups (scant) flour
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. Jamaica pepper (Allspice)
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 flat tsp. cream of tartar
1 flat tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. brandy
½ cup milk

To Prepare

Mix all the filling ingredients together, except the milk; add enough milk to dampen the mixture.

Put it all into the casing lined tin and the pastry lid on top, damping edges well to make it stick. Prick all over with a fork; with a thin skewer, make four holes right down to the bottom of the cake. Brush with the beaten egg.

Bake in a slow (225 deg.F) oven for about 3 hours.

It will keep for a year in an airtight tin.


This is, perhaps, the most traditional of all foods eaten in Scotland at Hogmanay. It is really a large, round sausage, the skin being the paunch of a sheep. It is often served to the skirl of the bagpipes after being given Burns's "Address To a Haggis"....the first verse of which follows:

"Fair fa' your honest sonsie face
Great Chieftain o' the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm;
Weel are ye worthy o' a Grace
As lang's my arm."

Here is Lady Logan's Recipe for making Haggis (circa 1856):

1 cleaned, sheep or lamb's stomach bag
2 lb. dry oatmeal
1 lb. chopped mutton suet
1 lb. lamb's or deer's liver, boiled and minced
1 pt. (2 cups) stock
the heart and lights of the sheep, boiled and minced
1 large chopped onion
½ tsp. each: cayenne pepper, Jamaica pepper,
     salt and black pepper

Toast the oatmeal slowly until crisp; mix all ingredients (except the stomach) together...add stock. Fill the bag a bit more than half full, press out the air and sew up securely....Have ready a large pot of boiling water....prick the Haggis all over with a large needle, so that it does not burst, boil slowly for 4 to 5 hours......

It is often served with "Clapshot". (Serves about 12.)


1 lb. potatoes
1 tbsp. chopped chives or shallots
1 lb. white turnips
1 heaped tbsp. butter or dripping
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the vegetables separately; drain, then mash them very well together, adding all the other ingredients. Season to taste. Serve very hot.

(Great with a large dollop of butter.)



In preparing this article I have, of course, used a number of Scottish cook-books such as A Taste of Scotland by Theodora Fitzgibbon and Brose 'n Butter from the Rob Roy Pipe Band & Highland Dancers. My thanks to them.

The name Hogmanay is thought by some to have come from the old French aguil'anneuf through Norman hoguigané: "to the New Year".

I hope your Hogmanay party is lots of good fun!! "Happy Days!"

(signed) Nancy


While Nancy's article has dealt with Hogmanay as a specific, it would be quite incorrect to infer that the Scots put Christmas (or any other religious festival) in a subordinate position. Indeed, the Scots have always maintained a healthy respect for the Lord and paying "proper respect" by observing Holy Days has been a large part of their lives.

At this time of the year, we can look back upon those moments when our family ceilidhs brought great happiness to our lives; and we can plan that we will not miss any opportunities for similar celebrations in the future. For family love and respect is a great Scottish tradition and comes straight from the heart.

If I, as the editor of this Litir à Clann (Family Newsletter), may speak for the entire Executive of the Association, I thank you for your support during 1988 and for your contributions for this Newsletter.....Please continue!!......May your homes feel the presence of God's love at this Christmas time and throughout 1989.



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