January 2, 2009

Hogmanay 2009

The Vikings march down The Royal Mile

From burning Vikings to buying real estate in heaven, Scotland sure has its own unique way of ringing in the new year. Unfortunately, I arrived back on the island the morning after the torch light procession. But, courtesy of Laura Marshall, I have photographs of the "river of fire" as the Vikings, and 25,000 civilians with torches, march up to the top of Calton Hill, where a Norwegian dragon atop a life-size Viking longboat was burned in effigy. Spectacular fireworks seal the deal. Is it a coincidence that as the Scots are literally burning the Vikes, the Philadelphia Eagles are destroying the Minnesota Vikings on the (American) Football field for their chance to make it to the Superbowl? I think not.

The Vikings at the top of Calton Hill

Burning the Viking longboat 

Burning the Vikings boat in effigy 

New Year's Eve itself, was just like most New Years': high expectations resulting in an anticlimactic finish. We had a great cheese fondu dinner and the ladies sported their feather and jeweled head pieces (our own classy version of the typical cardboard cone party hat). Then, our Mylne's Court crew headed down our back steps to the Mound and onto Prince's Street for the Hogmanay Street Party. There were six bars set up on the street, but you could bring your own alcohol with you, as long as it wasn't in a glass container. We spent most of the night splitting up to use the bathrooms and then trying to find each other again. But we were all together at midnight to see the magnificent fireworks set off at the castle, right above our dorms. Everyone was so caught up in the fireworks display, that no one sang Auld Lang Syne (which is the epitome of Scottish!). We realized this about 10 minutes after the fireworks ended and attempted to sing the song ourselves, but no one actually knew all of the words, so it failed miserably. The night kinda went downhill from there.

New Year's Eve dinner of cheese fondu 

Derek, Chris, Mark, and Liam in their kilts on Princes Street

Midnight fireworks over Edinburgh Castle

The Scottish have this tradition called "First Footing". In order to have luck in the new year, the first foot to step across the threshold of your home should be a tall, dark-haired man. Since the Scots hate the Vikes, the last thing you want is a Norwegian, fair-haired temptress of a woman first-footing at your door (in other words, I bring bad luck with me to whatever house I visit on the 1st of January, even though I am really of Scottish decent and not Norwegian... it's the blonde hair, and the whole seductive female thing). The first-footer traditionally brings gifts with him, a coin to ensure wealth, coal for warmth and happiness, and shortbread biscuits to keep away the longbread Viking ships. Now, I didn't actually go first footing (because I'm bad luck) but I did get an overview of the process, and was given supplies at the Feet First Festival on High Street on New Year's Day.  
Once again, I live right in the middle of all the action. The Feet First Festival occurred on a small stretch of the Royal Mile that started right below my flat. It was basically performance art and theatre, but in fun quirky ways. We had to withdraw Neuros from a cash machine (which was a large cardboard box with a hole cut out for a human face that talked to me and tried to peek at my fake passcode that I "typed" onto a sticker that looked like a computer keyboard). With my Neuros I could go to the many booths and "purchase" things in the Markt of Optimism. I could "pay" for Senorita Stampata to stomp on and dance away my problems, or buy a plot of clouds in heaven, pick out my own personal guardian angel, get checked out by the optician for a pair of rose-tinted glasses, have the bartender mix me the elixir of life (which is the Scots nickname for whisky), and adopt a plague-free rat from the Rat Charmer complete with birth certificate. It was all free, and a lot of fun.  

Withdrawing some Neuros from the Cash Point

I'm rich!

Now I can buy myself my own personal Guardian Angel

Now tell me if this makes any sense... there was a carnival set up on The Mound for the week surrounding New Year's Eve. It had typical carnival rides and games, but it also had a haunted house ride... hmmmmm. There was no haunted house at Halloween... but now that the new year is coming, quick, let's take a ride on the Ghost Train...
The ride was directly behind our dorms and played "Thriller", "Adam's Family", and the techno version of the song from the movie "Halloween H20" on loop for a week straight. Luckily, I couldn't hear it from my room, but I was still blessed with the lovely sounds of the bagpipes that I had missed so much when I was back home for Christmas.  

Nothing says "Happy New Year" like a haunted house ride...

Oh, and yeah, my friends and I totally went on the Ghost Train, and I definitely screamed out of terror, despite it not being scary at all.

1 comment:

Kara said...

How is that going downhill? That sounds awesome! Scotland is sooo weird.