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Stained Glass at the Scottish National War Memorial

5th March 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Following on from the story of the creation of the Scottish National War Memorial in our previous post, Forthview Primary School P7s are going to be examining it’s interior when they visit.

The Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle houses a rich variety of artwork to honour & remember those who died in World War One.  When it was built, between 1923 & 1927, over 200 professional artists worked with the architect, Robert Lorimer, to create a suitable tribute.

Air Force window design 1924 by Douglas Strachan

The interior of the memorial expresses the tragic sense of loss felt by Scotland after WW1. Inside the building, there is a feeling of dignity, pride and a sense of peace. The artists and makers used different materials, including bronze, iron, wood, stone, paint as well as stained glassThe result is impressive.

The artworks are designed to pay respect to the individual Scots who died, both men and women in all their different roles. Animals are acknowledged too, in the much loved stone sculpture ‘Remember also those Humble Beasts‘ by Phyllis Bone.

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Certainly the most colourful element of the SNWM is the is the stained glass with light flooding in from outside. In the main Hall of Honour the windows provide a lot of information, if you look carefully. For example, there is imagery illustrating what life was like on the Home Front, such as the mobilising of troops at Waverley Station (pictured top).

At either end of the hall, there are windows dedicated to different military services; that is the army, the navy and the air force – land, sea & air. Other windows show the four seasons. Some of the windows have roundels illustrating the different jobs people did or technology used in the machinery of war.

The windows in the Shrine are different to those in the Hall of Honour. These seven windows tell a another story, they use Bible and Christian messages to describe the experience of the War. Therefore they look more familiar to many, perhaps like traditional church windows at first glance.

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The artist who made all of these stunning windows was Douglas Strachan (1875-1950). Strachan was born in Aberdeen and educated at Robert Gordon’s College. He took evening classes at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. He worked as an apprentice lithographer, a muralist, a portrait painter and then found a passion for working with stained glass. In 1909 he moved to Edinburgh to set up the crafts department of Edinburgh College of Art. He lived in Midlothian where he died in 1950. He worked on many other memorial windows, including a designs for the Peace Palace in The Hague installed in 1929.

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* To see more of the SNWM stained glass windows on Scran click here

Images © Canmore Historic Environment Scotland Licensor Scran 

 

Paolozzi in the news

21st February 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Paolozzi artworkThe late Edinburgh-based artist pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi is very much in the news at the moment.  His famous murals at London’s Tottenham Court Road tube station have just been restored after being stowed away during renovation works (see video below), The Whitechapel Gallery is holding a retrospective of his work, while an Edinburgh brewery has recently started manufacturing a Paolozzi beer that pays homage to the artist.
Meanwhile, on a short stroll past Edinburgh University the other day, a staff member spotted  an original Paolozzi artwork in a window (above). You can see a similar work, along with other Paolozzi sketches and artworks here.

 

Image © Andrew James

 

Massacre of Glencoe

12th February 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Among the many tortuous events in the Highlands, the Glencoe Massacre stands out. It is notorious for the political skullduggery surrounding it and for its breach of the code of highland hospitality. The soldiers who massacred the MacDonalds had stayed with their victims for many days prior to the killings.

Massacre

Captain Robert Campbell

Two companies of soldiers, from the Earl of Argyle’s Regiment,
had arrived at Glencoe on 1st February. They claimed that the Fort William garrison was full and asked for hospitality. They were under the command of Major Robert Duncanson and Captain Robert Campbell. The MacDonalds of Glencoe, since they had not paid their taxes, were compelled to billet troops. They housed and fed the soldiers for twelve days. On 12th February, Duncanson received orders to attack the clan the following morning and was to ensure that ‘”the old fox nor non of his Cubs gett away. The orders are that non be spared nor the government troubled with prisoners.” Two further companies bottle up the head of the glen and more troops would progress from Ballachulish at the other end. The soldiers attacked the clan in their beds at 5.00 am on 13th February. Thirty-eight people were killed immediately. including MacIain – the clan leader – as he tried to dress. But most of the clan managed to escape, including MacIain’s two sons and his grandson.

Escape into Blizzard

Duncanson’s Orders “Non be spared nor the government troubled with prisoners”

Nearly three hundred escaped aided by the fierce winter blizzard – some later to die from the cold and starvation. This fact severely annoyed the senior officers who arrived after the initial massacre. In military terms, the attack was botched, perhaps deliberately. It was rumoured that two officers resigned their commission rather than take part.

The Stewarts Deposed

The events of the “Revolution of 1688” – sometimes known as the “Glorious Revolution” had led to the succession of William of Orange in the United Kingdom. King James II of England and VII of Scotland, grandson of King James VI of Scotland, had been deposed. He went into exile in France. The Revolution was planned by a union of Parliamentarians – mostly the Whigs – and the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau (William of Orange). Although often labelled “bloodless”, there was fighting and loss of life in Ireland and Scotland. The Revolution was linked to the War of the Grand Alliance on mainland Europe against France, and, since William arrived with troops, purportedly with an invitation, it can be viewed as the last successful invasion of the United Kingdom. Inevitably, for this time, much of this concerned Protestantism and Catholicism.

A New Oath

King William III of Orange

After many skirmishes and battles over the years in Scotland, King William offered a pardon to all Highland clans who had fought against him or raided their neighbours; on the condition clan chiefs took an oath of allegiance before a recognised magistrate before 1 January 1692. Anyone failing to swear allegiance would suffer the full penalty of the law. Clan Chiefs had already sworn an Oath to James VII and were reluctant to swear a new vow without permission. So, Major Duncan Menzies was sent to France to obtain permission but James, preoccupied with his latest mistress, took an age to reply to the Major’s request. Menzies returned to Edinburgh with James’ permission on the 21st of December, leaving only 10 days for the oath to be taken.

MacIain Complies

MacIain’s Oath of Allegiance

Then, MacIain of Glencoe set out to take the Oath with Colonel Hill at Inverlochy, Fort William. He reached there on the 31st of December, but he had gone to the wrong place. He needed to take the oath with the Sheriff at Inveraray. Sheriff Campbell of Ardkinglass was still on New Year’s holiday when he got there. He finally signed the Oath on the 6th of January and returned to Glencoe. However, the Privy Council of the Scottish Parliament struck off his oath on the grounds that it was received 6 days too late. The MacDonalds of Glencoe were an ideal target: troublesome to their neighbours – known as the ‘Gallow’s Herd’ because of their thieving abilities – and Glencoe could be sealed geographically. So the late oath gave the government all the excuse they needed to punish the Macdonald clan and set an example.

Political Skullduggery

The Privy Council issued a warrant, signed by the Earl of Stair, Secretary of State for Scotland, and countersigned by King William. This was delivered to Thomas Livingstone, Commander in Chief of the Army in Scotland on the 11th of January, 1693 to punish those rebels who had failed to take an Oath of Allegiance to King William. Livingstone then issued these orders to Colonel Hill to pursue the rebels, burn their homes and to take no prisoners. Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton – Hill’s assistant – and Major Robert Duncanson were chosen to plan the attack.

Parliamentary Commission

When news of the massacre reached London two weeks later, the work of the Irish journalist Charles Leslie turned the massacre into a political scandal. His pamphlet suggested a high level cover-up, which excited the interest of those opposed to the King and the Secretary of State. However, it was a further three years before there was any official reprimand. A Parliamentary Commission into the massacre was set up due to the strength of public opinion. Colonel Hill testified that he had delayed executing his orders as he thought it a nasty, dirty business. The commission’s report put the blame on the Earl of Stair for overstepping his orders and he was removed from government, though he was later reinstated. No-one was punished for the massacre.

The Campbell Myth

The presence of Captain Campbell and the involvement of Sheriff Campbell of Ardkinglass led to a belief that the Campbells had exacted revenge on the MacDonalds, but the two clans fought side by side in the subsequent Jacobite rebellions. The Earl of Argyle’s Regiment was a regular, red-coat unit of the British army and acted under clear orders. So the massacre being the result of a Campbell v MacDonald’s feud is likely to be a popular myth.

Curse of Scotland

Gravestones, Eilean Munde – Cemetery reputed to hold the remains of MacIain of Glencoe

In public terms, the attack was an own goal. It incited opinion against troops, officials and the King and provided a propaganda opportunity to those who opposed the state. The planned and deliberate attempt at genocide by the government makes Glencoe a byword for infamy and treachery to this day. Ever since then, the nine of diamonds has been called the “Curse of Scotland” That is because the card matches the nine lozenges on the coat of arms of the Earls of Stair – John Dalrymple – who was the Secretary of State for Scotland at the time.

Of course, the deposition of James and the fractious relationship between Clans, Crown and Government added fuel to much of what was to follow historically in the Jacobite cause.

Images © National Trust for Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, National Records of Scotland Licensor Scran 

 

 

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

8th February 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

01550235

“Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots” by Robert Herdman, 1867

Mary, Queen of Scots is one of Scotland’s best known monarchs. She is also renowned for her involvement in plots and murder. Elizabeth I had Mary beheaded for treason on Wednesday, 8th February 1587.

Born on 2nd December 1542 at Linlithgow, she came to the throne as an infant, ruled France when only 16, lost her husband at 18, married two men who helped murder their rivals and came close to ruling all of Britain 35 years before her son, James VI of Scotland, was also crowned King James I of England on Elizabeth I’s death.

Turbulent Times

During the 16th century, Scotland witnessed great religious, political, social and economic change in the form of the religious Reformation and frequent power struggles between rival political factions. Mary had ascended to the Scottish throne when she was six days old but in 1548 was sent to France as the prospective bride of the French Dauphin, Francis, whom she married in 1558. She returned to Scotland to resume control in 1561, after Francis’s death. Mary’s reign was beset by plots and religious struggles. Although Mary had stated she had no particular wish to rule how her subjects should worship, she came under considerable attack from John Knox – the religious reformer.

Murderous Intent

The Catholic nobleman Lord Darnley, Mary’s cousin and second husband, was involved in the murder of her private secretary David Rizzio and was then strangled at Kirk o’ Field in 1567 by the Queen’s favourite James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. They also blew up the house he was staying in.

Open Rebellion

Bothwell and Mary were married in a Protestant ceremony in 1567, an act which turned Scottish noblemen against her and led to open rebellion. Mary’s troops were defeated at Carberry Hill in June 1567 and she was forced to surrender, abdicating in favour of her son, James VI, who was crowned at Stirling. She escaped from her prison at Lochleven in May 1568 and gathered an army of 6,000 but was defeated again at Langside.

To England

Fleeing, Mary crossed the Solway Firth seeking refuge at the court of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. She hoped for asylum and assistance from her cousin, but she was mistaken. In 1568, in York and Westminster, Mary’s representatives and opponents, debating her alleged complicity in Darnley’s murder, failed to reach a formal decision as to whether she should be restored to the Scottish throne. Elizabeth did not find in Mary’s favour. Mary was detained in England for 19 years before her execution on 8 February 1587. She feared that Mary would be a focus for catholic rebellion, especially after the Pope declared that if a catholic murdered Elizabeth, they would not be guilty of any sin.

049446More Plots

At first her imprisonment was relatively easy, but the continued plotting of catholic sympathisers forced Elizabeth to act. The more frequent the plots against Elizabeth, the greater the pressure on her to act against Mary. She was arrested for being involved in her page Babbington’s plot to murder Elizabeth I, which would have led to her becoming Queen of England, being next in line to that throne. Mary was tried and found guilty of treason by conspiring against the English queen in 1586. But Elizabeth still hesitated to sign Mary’s death warrant.

Final Days

Elizabeth was persuaded by Parliament and her councillors to do so on 1 February 1587.

Mary had been told of her execution on the afternoon of 7 February. Her last letter was completed at two o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, 8 February 1587, six hours before her execution at Fotheringhay Castle. It was to Henri III, her former brother-in-law, then King of France. In it Mary states that she is being put to death for her Catholic religion and her right to the English crown. She also asks him to take care of her servants.

Beheading

Mary was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle at 8.00am on Wednesday 8 February 1587, aged 44. At the Execution, Mary was heard to intone ‘Into thy Hands O Lord, do I commit my Spirit’. In the presence of the Commissioners and Ministers of Queen Elizabeth the executioner struck Mary with his axe, and after a first and second blow by which she was barbarously wounded, he cut off her head with the third stroke. She was first interred in Peterborough Cathedral, but later, in 1612, James VI had her remains removed and entombed in Westminster Abbey.

Lots more for teachers via this attachment Investigating Mary Queen of Scots.

 

Up Helly Aa

30th January 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Up Helly Aa celebrations take place on the last Tuesday of January . They are one of the United Kingdom’s most spectacular winter festivals. The festival, centred in Lerwick on the Shetland Islands, takes a year to plan and spans two days.

Roots

The modern version of Up Helly Aa – meaning “end of holidays” – has its origins around 1815 when young men returned from the Napoleonic war where they had experienced the banging of drums, fires, and guns. Out of such excitement came a desire to create an event which would enliven the long dark winter months. Early activities, particularly tar-barrelling where lit barrels of tar were pulled along the narrow street towards rival gangs, gave way to a more organised festival and by the 1950s the modern Up Helly Aa had evolved.02090271 The Festival is based around both the legends of Norse mythology and the very real links between Shetland and Norway which go back more than 1000 years. In the old Norse calendar Up Helly Aa was the last day of the winter festival and was celebrated on the 24th day following Yule. Shetland’s Up Helly Aa is held on the last Tuesday in January and concludes with the burning of a replica Viking long boat.

Guizers & the Jarl

02102225Each year, a Guizer Jarl or leader is nominated and the whole community work for some considerable time building and naming a new galley. Costumes and 1000 torches are prepared and arrangements are made for a series of parties. The Guizer Jarl (Head Viking) will have nominated himself to the Up Helly Aa committee 15 years in advance. It is therefore a long wait to fulfil the role. Preparation includes the selection of a squad of around 50 men who will form the squad. Direct debits will be set up over 15 years to pay for each costly suit (around £1,000) and other event costs. Being part of the Jarl squad is an honour and men spend long hours preparing their costumes and rehearsing.

 

Blazing Long Ship

02498940On Up Helly Aa morning the Jarl Squad meets, accompanied by the local brass band. All march to the Lerwick Legion where they receive their first dram of the day. Waiting outside are crowds of school children, locals and tourists – and, of course, the new galley, especially named for the day. The Guizer Jarl – wearing traditional Viking apparel – hoists his axe aloft aboard his long ship and calls on his Jarl Squad to begin the Festival. The Squad then processes through the town centre led by the Jarl. They carry banners and weapons as though on a raid.

The Proclamation

At this stage they deliver their “Proclamation” to the town – a light hearted document – which is displayed at the Market Cross in the town centre. Many folk stop to read and have a laugh as they read it. The proclamation (or bill) is erected as a large billboard which has been skilfully painted by local artists. The text includes local political topics and personal jokes. The Jarl squad spend the rest of the day visiting schools, hospitals, houses and the local museum.

The Last Rites

At 7.30pm, the leaders use crimson flares, or maroons, to signal the lighting of the torches and the start of the procession. Torches are wooden stakes, the size of fence posts, dipped in a combustable resin. They resemble giant matches. Lit by torchlight, the procession makes its way along King Erik Street and the Galley makes her last journey to the special burning site. Guizers, the Jarl’s men, wear specially made costumes inspired by mythological creatures such as serpents, double-headed eagles, and dragons. At the “Last Rites”, the procession reaches the burning site. The Galley is positioned as a centrepiece and the glowing torches are thrown into the boat. The flames engulf the galley reminiscent of a Viking leader’s burial. Only then are the feasting halls opened to receive squads. Those not involved in the procession have prepared food and set up parties. As dictated by tradition, the squad tour as many halls as they can. And the festivities last till morning.

For more pictures of Up Helly Aa including some stunning Hulton Getty photographs visit Scran.

Images © The Scotsman Publications Ltd., National Museums Scotland, Newsquest (Herald & Times), Scottish Media Group | Licensor Scran 

Then and Now imagery

20th January 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Mains Castle montage

A montage of Mains Castle, then and now, by Iain Robertson of South Lanarkshire

Last week, Scran met with Iain Robertson, the Development Officer of South Lanarkshire Libraries, in part to discuss the part Scran might play in the forthcoming East Kilbride 70th anniversary Celebrations. We’re greatly looking forward to this event, and will share more details as it approaches. In the meantime see some of our Scran East Kilbride content here.

While we were talking, Iain mentioned that he’d been playing around with some old Scran imagery of the local area around East Kilbride, and that he’d been inserting it into present-day pictures to create a sort of “Then and Now” montage. We think the results are stunning. The photo of St Bride’s in particular is terrific, as it restores an original feature (the tall tower) that has since been lost.

St Bride's montage

A photo montage featuring St Bride’s Kirk, East Kilbride, then and now

The montaged image of Torrance House in East Kilbride, meanwhile, shows a building (in black and white with the cars parked outside it) that no longer exists, and a pond that has since been filled in! The original Scran Torrance House image is here. The original image from Scran of St Bride’s is here, while the original of Mains Castle is here. 

If you want to do something similar, at school, college, or just for fun, you can. Your Scran subscription gives you the right to download ANY Scran image (or sound or video) and to reuse it, edit it etc. If you do find an old pic and can insert it into a present-day image, as Iain has done, we’d be delighted to feature your montage here.

 

 

Torrance House photomontage

A montage of old and new images of Torrance House 

Images © The Scotsman Publications Ltd, Newsquest (Herald & Times), Newsquest (Herald & Times) | Licensor Scran

Burns Supper

17th January 2017 by Scran | 0 comments

Around January 25th, Burns’ Clubs & other lovers of the poet, arrange Burns Suppers. Burns has always attracted massive support.

01980093This painting, by an unknown artist, depicts the 1844 Burns Festival. The procession, which started in Ayr, is shown passing over the new and old brigs o’ Doon and entering the festival site at the Burns Monument, where Burns’ three surviving sons were guests of honour. The event attracted over 100,000 participants and involved the construction of a banqueting marquee for 1400 invited guests, seen to the right of the picture. A platform was constructed in front of the Monument to enable the guests of honour to be seen by the crowds and to deliver the speeches.

History

01740151

Newton Stewart Burns’ Club dinner, 1904

Greenock enthusiasts founded the earliest Burns’ Club on 21st July 1801 and had their first supper on 29th January 1802; which at that time was mistakenly thought to be the anniversary of his birth. Following close on their heels were clubs at Paisley, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline. Throughout the century more and more clubs sprang up either in Scotland or wherever Scots met. One of the earliest in England was the Bristol Caledonian Society founded in 1820. By 1885 there were so many Burns’ Clubs in existence that an international Federation of clubs was instituted.

Format of Burns’ Supper

Welcome & Grace 00981150 (1)

A few welcoming words start the evening & the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Piping in the Haggis – Before the Haggis appears, one should hear the skirl of the bagpipes and the company should stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table. The guests accompany this with a slow rhythmic hand clap.

06710548Address to the Haggis – The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis. When he reaches the line “an cut you up wi’ ready slight”, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. The company applauds the speaker and then are asked by their host to stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky. The meal is then served.

The Immortal Memory – An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.

Toast to the Lasses – The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a friendly note.

Response – The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles. Again, this should be humorous but not insulting.

Poems & Songs

Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.

Food Served

06320052The food varies according to custom and locality but, in general, the meal should feature a Haggis. The usual accompaniment is Tatties [potatoes] and Neeps [turnips or swedes]. Other components might include a soup such as Scotch Broth or Cock-a- Leekie and there may be Atholl Brose or cheese and bannocks [oatcakes].

Images © Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage, National Museums Scotland, Whithorn Photographic Group  & Scottish Life Archive and an Unknown | Licensor Scran

New Year & Hogmanay

28th December 2016 by Scran | 0 comments


06712115The celebration of the New Year is one of the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago when the beginning of spring was the logical time to start a new year. The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days.

The Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But it wasn’t until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar that the months became synchronised with the seasons and the sun. The early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began aligning its own religious observances with many pagan celebrations. During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Year. However, it remained an important festival linked with mid-winter.

Traditions

05015276Traditions of the season include the making of New Year’s resolutions which dates back to the early Babylonians. Using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. They celebrated their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the god’s rebirth as the spirit of fertility. Luck in the New Year – traditionally, it was thought that one could affect luck throughout the coming year. For that reason, it become common to feast and make merry into the first moment of the new year – hence New Year’s Eve. This feast took place with family and friends.

Scotland & New Year

For many English speaking countries, Scotland has come to represent a focus for New Year with its own particular Hogmanay [New Year’s Eve] and New Year’s Day celebrations which weave pagan and winter themes together. In Scotland, for many years, the official winter holiday was New Year’s Day and not Christmas Day. Over the last fifty years, Christmas has become more equalised in regard. There is a particular vocabulary to a Scottish New Year:09053042

Whisky is seen as an important part of the festival where one sips a dram [a measure of whisky] and proposes toasts to the New Year – maintaining the association with wishing a lucky year.

First Footing is very important in Scotland. This is where the first person to set foot in your house, after the midnight bells chime, should bring luck. It is particularly lucky if that visitor happens to be a tall dark-haired man. First Footers have to be treated generously but also should show their own generosity. All-in-all, it’s a great excuse for a party into the wee sma’ hours [early hours of the next morning].

Gifts should be carried by the first footer. Traditionally, they are expected to carry at least aHawf or half bottle of whisky. You may be invited to “have a wee hawf” – to take a glass of whisky with the first footer. In fact, this is expected – and in return, the first footer will drink from your bottle. First Footers used also to carry a lump of coal with them and this would be thrown on the fire with the wish that lang may yer lum reek [long may your chimney smoke]! One should also carry something to eat and, traditionally Black Bun – a rich cake full of currants and perhaps alcohol – was provided.

Good Spirits & Fellow Feeling are expected. All those who meet after the bells are expected to wish each other a Guid New Year; and to shake hands and kiss if they know each other.

First Footing Rulesimgzoom-image-0749-07491417

  • The first footer brings all the luck, good or bad, for the year ahead.
  • They should be male, tall, dark and handsome.
  • They cannot be doctors, ministers or grave-diggers & cannot have eyebrows that meet in the middle!
  • They should come with drinks and food and should be merrily generous.
  • Such a first footer can claim a kiss from every woman. Woe betide the house that does not have such a First Footer – because they are heading for an unlucky year.

 

Auld Lang Syne

Many sing Auld Lang Syne at New Year – probably best sung at parting. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700s, it was first published in 1796 after Burns’s death. It is old Scottish tune and literally means “old long since,” or simply, “the old times.” It mixes the perennial constants of Scotland at New Year – generosity, sentimentality and reminiscence with those you love and remember. Here are the most commonly sung verses:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,02070078
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And there’s a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

A very Happy New Year to You from Scran

Images © The Scotsman, National Museums Scotland & Scottish Life Archive | Licensor Scran

Santa Claus A.K.A. Father Christmas

19th December 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

03110067Santa Claus (also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy or simply Santa) is a folk hero in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, traditionally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus.

Father Christmas is a well-loved figure in the United Kingdom and similar in many ways, though the two have quite different origins. Nowadays, Father Christmas is used as a more formal name for Santa Claus. Father Christmas is present in Italy (“Babbo Natale”), Brazil (“Papai Noel”), Portugal (“Pai Natal”), Romania (“Moş Crăciun”), Germany (“Weihnachtsmann”), France and French-speaking Canada (“Le Père Noël”) and South Africa.

In popular mythology, Santa lives at the North Pole – or in Lapland. Many children write letters to Santa each year revealing what they would like to receive as gifts. It is also usual to leave a treat for Santa and his reindeers on Christmas Eve. It can be quite exhausting getting down all those chimneys!

Saint Nicholas

02555625Santa derives from European folk tales based on the historical figure Saint Nicholas, a bishop from present-day Turkey, who gave presents to the poor. This inspired the mythical figure of Sinterklaas, the subject of a major celebration in the Netherlands and Belgium (where his alleged birthday is celebrated), which in turn inspired both the myth and the name of Santa Claus.

In many Eastern Orthodox traditions, Santa Claus visits children on New Year’s Day and is identified with Saint Basil whose memory is celebrated on that day.

Depictions of Santa Claus also have a close relationship with the Russian character of Ded Moroz (“Grandfather Frost”). He delivers presents to children and has a red coat, fur boots and long white beard. Much of the iconography of Santa Claus could be seen to derive from Russian traditions of Ded Moroz, particularly transmitted into western European culture through his German folklore equivalent, Väterchen Frost.

Development of the Santa Image

09634040The plump figure in the fur trimmed suit is a relatively recent image developed through the 19th Century.

In 1809, Washington Irving published A History of New York, by “Diedrich Knickerbocker,” a work that poked fun at New York’s Dutch past (St. Nicholas included). Irving revised his History of New York in 1812, adding details about Nicholas “riding over the tops of the trees, in that self same waggon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children.” In 1821, a New York printer named William Gilley issued a poem about a “Santeclaus” who dressed all in fur and drove a sleigh pulled by one reindeer.

On Christmas Eve of 1822, another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, wrote down and read to his children a series of verses; his poem was published a year later as “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”. This is the first naming of Santa’s reindeers and one of the first published accounts of access by chimney. It also sets the tone of a fat, jolly figure.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Nast, Sundblom & Coca Cola

02101206In 1863, Thomas Nast – a caricaturist for Harper’s Weekly – developed his own image of Santa. Nast drew his figure with a “flowing set of whiskers” and “all in fur, from his head to his foot.” Nast drew Santa in many sizes from miniature to large. His 1881 “Merry Old Santa Claus” drawing is close to the modern-day image.

Thus, the Santa Claus figure we know today, although not yet standardized in size perhaps presciently to allow chimney access, was everywhere by the late 19th century. At the beginning of the 1930s, the Coca-Cola company wanted to increase sales during winter. An illustrator named Haddon Sundblom created the figure of a larger than life, red-and-white garbed Santa Claus for them. And since then, illustrations have followed the formula of a larger than life, rotund, red-suited, bewhiskered jolly man.

Images © Glasgow University Library, National Museums Scotland, The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Scotsman Licensor Scran

Christmas Traditions

15th December 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

09510019Christmas (originally meaning the Mass or Birth of Christ) is a holiday which celebrates the birth of Jesus in Christian belief. However, many Christmas traditions are based on other older pre-christian festivals. The Yule log, Christmas Tree, Mistletoe and Holly, for example, all derive from Scandinavian ceremonies associated with the Winter Solstice – December 21.

In mainly Christian countries, Christmas has become a major holiday of the year, but it is also celebrated as a secular holiday in countries with small Christian populations like Japan.

Christmas Today

08120374The modern Christmas, that we have come to know, is based on an exchange of gifts between family and friends; or on gifts being brought by Santa Claus. Local and regional Christmas traditions are still rich and varied. For example, in some countries in Europe, gifts are exchanged on December 6th or Epiphany – 6th January.

Coupled with celebration of the New Year, this whole mid-winter period has become a holiday set piece.

 

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth is a central figure of Christianity. He is known as Jesus Christ with “Christ” being a title meaning “Anointed”. He is also considered a very important prophet in Islam.

The main sources regarding his life and teachings are four Gospels from the New Testament of the Bible, written some decades after his death. He is depicted as a Jewish Galilean preacher and healer who was at odds with the Jewish religious authorities, and who was crucified outside Jerusalem during the rule of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate. After his death numerous followers spread his teachings, and within a few decades Christianity emerged as a religion distinct from Judaism.

The Gospels State that:

  • Jesus was the Messiah – prophesied in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible)
  • He was the son of God
  • His birth by Mary was virginal
  • after His crucifixion He rose from the dead
  • He ascended into heaven

Many Christians believe that the accounts in the New Testament are historical facts, though others maintain that different parts have different degrees of accuracy.

Jesus is thought to have been born in a stable and was attended by Wise Men and Shepherds who brought gifts. In Christian thought, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth and the giving of gifts reflects that.

In Islam, Jesus (called Isa) is considered one of God’s most beloved and important prophets, a bringer of divine scripture, and also the messiah; although Muslims attach a different meaning to this term than Christians as they do not share the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus.

Other religions also have different perspectives on Jesus, but do not place as much importance on his life and teachings.

Santa Claus (also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy or simply Santa) is a folk hero in various cultures. He distributes gifts to children, traditionally on Christmas Eve. Santa’s name is a variation of Saint Nicholas.

Father Christmas is a well-loved figure in the United Kingdom and similar in many ways to Santa Claus, though the two have quite different origins.

Boxing Day

In English-speaking countries, the day following Christmas Day is called ‘Boxing Day’. This word comes from the custom, started in the Middle Ages around 800 years ago, whereby churches would open their ‘alms boxe’ (boxes in which people had placed gifts of money) and distribute the contents to poor people in the neighbourhood on the day after Christmas.

Yule & Pagan Festivities

Yule means “feast”. Yule derives from the early Scandinavians and refers to the festival at the Winter Solstice. For ancient Germanic and Celtic people, the impulse to celebrate solstice was a celebration of the cycle of nature and a reaffirmation of the continuation of life. These northern cultures survived a colder, darker winter and thus held a great celebration. This was held at the turning of the year on the shortest day – December 21 – which heralds the return of the sun’s light and warmth.

Many ancient traditions surrounding Yuletide are concerned with coping with the darkness and evils. In Shetland, there is still an Annual Up Helly Aa Viking style celebration of mid winter where a procession takes place throughout the town ending in a longboat being set alight in the harbour. Holly Evergreens were cherished at this time of year as a natural symbol of rebirth and life amid winter whiteness. But holly is prickly and will see off evil spirits before they could enter and harm a household.

The Julbukk, or Yule goat, from Sweden and Norway, carried the god Thor. Now he carries the Yule elf to deliver presents and receive his offering of porridge. In Iceland the giant Yule Cat eats humans who have not contributed to the community’s work. Other Germanic, Scandinavian, Viking and Celtic traditions include mistletoe and the Evergreen tree – in many places, hung upside down; and there’s the famous Yule Log.

Other Non-Christian Gift Giving Festivals

Although Christmas is celebrated by many non-Christians, there are alternative winter gift-giving holidays instead of or in addition to Christmas.

  • Judaism’s Hanukkah has developed a tradition of gift-giving similar to Christmas.
  • Christmas has some acceptance in the Islamic world, where Jesus is regarded as a prophet. Additionally, the observance of Eid ul-Fitr is sometimes accompanied by greetings similar to traditional Christmas greetings.
  • Diwali is a Festival of Light in India and it is important to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Nepalese Buddhists. This involves decoration with lights and giving gifts.
  • Observances of the Kwanzaa festival, which reinforces African American heritage, are also celebrated in December with decorations, feasts, and gift-giving.
  • Many atheists and modern-day pagans celebrate the winter Solstice as an alternative to religious end-of-year holidays.

Eid ul-Fitr

Eid ul-Fitr often abbreviated as simply Eid, is an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. On the day of the celebration, a typical Muslim family gets up very early and attends special prayers held only for the occasion in big mosques. The festivities and merriment start after the prayers with visits to the homes of friends and relatives and thanking the Creator for all blessings. Eid is a time to come together as a community and to renew friendship and family ties. This is a time for peace for all Muslims in the world to devote to prayers and mutual well-being.

Diwali

Diwali is a major Indian and Nepalese festive holiday, and a significant religious festival for Hinduism , Jainism and Sikhism. It is celebrated as the “Festival of Light,” where lights or lamps are displayed to signify the victory of good over the evil. It may have originated as a harvest festival, marking the last harvest of the year before winter. In India, it is a national festival enjoyed by most regardless of faith. Homes are decorated with lights, fireworks are set off and sweets and gifts are given. Prayers are also said to various gods who are associated with the festival. The date, like Easter in Christian Faiths, is calculated and is usually around the end of October, beginning of November.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah or Chanukah is a Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival or Feast of Lights. Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning “dedication”. Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, and the holiday is celebrated for eight days. The start of Hanukkah usually falls in December but occasionally is in late November. The festival is observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of special Hanukkah lights on each of the festival’s eight nights. A special 8 limbed lamp is used which symbolises the lamp that remained lit for 8 days although only having oil for one.

Images © Edward Martin, Archive Services University of Dundee| Licensor Scran