a journal of...

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Sunday, December 31, 2017


Today is the day before the new year, a Sunday this time.  I walked into Whole Foods this morning, and was politely arrested by the cashier for trying to buy a bottle of Prosecco before 10 am.  (If you're not from this state, don't ask.)  This morning, feeling the new year's chill, I wanted to pull the holiday season tighter around me like a warm coat, keeping happy anticipation for one more day.  Partly it's the fault of the calendar...a holiday like these winter favorites coming on a Monday throws us all off...Monday, we feel, is the start of the workday, not the holiday itself.  Surely, we think, there should be a weekend to follow, at least to allow us time to recover from the carnival atmosphere of more than a month.

All December, we've had quite a time around here, counting candles, presents and heads, wrapping lights on wreaths, gathering at one holiday table after another, at each one celebrating the day and each other.  Thereat, we all have our favorite ceremonies, songs, dishes, and we value the chance to share them as well as indulge in them, learning new ones as much as resurrecting the old.

A friend wrote me a few weeks ago, "What are you celebrating this year?"  "Everything!" I told her, and we laughed over the web.  Families being what they are, wide-reaching and multi-cultured, variably believing and remembering and keeping, there is always something to celebrate for and with everyone.  I, for one, am even more in the mood to do so, considering the wet blanket this past year's grinches have thrown over inclusiveness, not to mention over common decency and basic respect for the humanity in all of us.

So though tonight, New Year's Eve, I will be staying home out of the fray as usual, I'm ready enough to celebrate in situ the potential for good that a new year brings, the hope that in 2018 we will awaken to remember who we are at our best, both individually and socially and globally. 

Anyway, in honor of my Scotch uncle's residence here, I decided to make tonight a sort of Hogmanay fest, beginning at dinner time here, and continuing for as long as any of us can stay awake.  Fortunately, Scotland is five hours ahead of us in time, so 7 pm will find us beginning our Auld Lang Syne verses, and calling his Glasgow family across the pond to wish them well.  Then, here, while others are watching the ball drop and the fireworks flicker and spark over the trees outside the front window, our household (and apparently most of the neighbors', too) will be comfortably tucked away in sleep.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Scottish customs, let me explain that Hogmanay in its own country is not the retiring feast we are set to practice here.  The Scots begin early and last days eating, drinking, singing, and, just at midnight, going out for First Footing, a walk from house to house offering New Year greetings and begging another dram of whiskey from each.  It's apparently a merry time for all, and reminds me a little of the New Year's Eves of my childhood, at my grandmother's (all festivities happened there), when we ate at least seven courses of seafood for hours (I truly, even hungrily, miss that part) until the moment, counted down in two languages, when even children were cheerfully gathered to the front door to wave noisemakers and sweep the old year out...oh, yes, with a new broom, quite literally.

Food still being the center of any festivity, for our Scottish New Year, I've been looking up Hogmanay dishes.  Hence the early trip to the market to get some ingredients I don't usually have on hand.

Here is a full Hogmanay menu from The Spruce site:

Smoked Salmon
Cock-a-Leekie Soup
Venison Pie
Cullen Skink

Trifle or Cranachan


Not finding sheep's intestines at WF was, I admit, a relief, though a decade ago, I had tried and quite enjoyed the haggis in the Edinburgh pubs.  Smoked Salmon?  No brainer.  Cock-a-Leekie sounded not only doable but delicious, as did the Skink...I'm always up for a good hearty soup.  Venison Pie made me yearn for the freezer full of tenderloin and shoulder meat I could once upon a time reach into for such a delicacy.  (Alas, I'm no longer a meat-, even a game-, eater.) 

But 'tis the season:  out with the old and in with the new.  The Cullen Skink won out for our main dish this evening.  Orange curried carrots for a side, smoked salmon made into a paste with hard-boiled egg and green onion, some nuts and grapes.

And dessert.  Each year, my aunt used to make a wonderful Trifle for our holidays, and that would be easy to replicate now, especially after the major gift-giving of this month and last...the liquor cabinet is replete with the stuff that gives that elegant dessert its best flavor.  But, as, interestingly enough, my uncle had never heard of Cranachan...raspberries (Scottish raspberries) and cream...I thought I'd try that instead.  And Shortbread?  I certainly didn't have to go to the store for that...I'd made another batch only last night.

As for liquid refreshment, see previous paragraph; we'll hardly miss the Prosecco.  Along with the holidays' gifts of single malts and various wines, we'd also been presented with home made cream liquor from the friend of a friend, and so we're good, as they say.

Well, as it's past midday, I'd better get to it.

I'll let you know how our Scottish New Year goes.  Meanwhile, a very good new year to all of you.  In whatever tradition you celebrate, may the good in you be the good for all of us.  We're all counting on it.

Yours aye...


  1. I looked up a Scottish "blessing" - here's mine to all:
    May there always be work for your hands to do.
    May your purse always hold a coin or two.
    May the sun always shine upon your window pane.
    May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
    May the hand of a friend always be near to you and
    May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

  2. Thank you for that wonderful piece again. Let these words resound within each / all of us:

    So though tonight, New Year's Eve,........the hope that in 2018 we will awaken to remember who we are at our best, both individually and socially and globally.

  3. Thank you for the wonderful and heartwarming story of New Years both past and present! And for the wonderful Scottish blessing, as well as the hope that in 2018 we remember who we are at our best - individually, socially, and globally. Happy New Year!

  4. So lovely to end a year and start a new one with your beautiful words
    on life.