Posted on 23.12.2017

Happy New Viking Year

New Ideas on How to Spend Your Winter Holidays

Are you the one who got used to annual Christmas family feast, spending half-day cooking numerous dishes or helping mom in the kitchen? Love to decorate the house and spend hours in search for a decent present and then wrapping it? Or you are the type fond of parties to socialize, make some new friends and cannot wait for the New Year to meet a complete stranger and kiss him or her when the clock strikes twelve?

With each of the scenario quite ordinary and predictable, we would suggest to change a yearly routine and set a new direction of celebration to spend mind-blowing winter holidays in the Norse style following Yule and Hogmanay traditions and customs.

Let’s begin with exploring of how our ancestors used to celebrate Christmas in the Viking days.

Where Traditions Come From

Many people know that we’ve got most Christmas traditions from our pagan ancestors with the medieval holiday of Yule considered to be taken as a base. Yule was aimed at celebrating the winter solstice with the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This 12-day festival praised the power of sun, indicating its rebirth, the beginning of a new life, and was accompanied by merry festivities including sacrifice to the gods, common for the pagan celebrations.

Yule is also linked with the Wild Hunt, where Odin, the leader of a hunting party, rode his loyal horse Sleipnir. And here is when we first encounter the traces of what we know today as Christmas.

    •        Odin’s riding around the world on his horse, leaping over great distances, and leaving gifts to children is compared to Santa’s reindeers and present-giving. Odin even was described like St. Nicholas wearing a long white beard.
    •        Yule tree could look exactly like a nowadays Christmas one except for Vikings decorated it with candles and everything they could find in the village and nearby forests.
    •        Burning Yule log is an ancient tradition still followed in some countries of Europe, which implicates choosing and burning a log in sacrifice to the gods and at the same time indicating the rebirth, the upcoming year. Today, this was given a new meaning with cooking a cake in the form of a log.
  • Yule log cake is accompanied by caramel apples and oranges (image of the sun) that follow pork dishes, turkey, spicy cider, nuts, and cookies.

Celebrate the New Year in a Scottish Way

One of the merriest and memorable ways to celebrate the New Year Eve is to do it like Scots do. The Scottish Hogmanay is the traditional celebration derived from Yule and considered to be brought by the Vikings. You may find some of the holiday’s customs very familiar, while some would seem unusual and intriguing:

  •         Hogmanay celebrations consist of numerous festivals and parties with outdoor shows and torchlight processions along the streets, the most spectacular of which you will find in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen.
  •         Scots of Stonehaven remember and follow the tradition of making fireballs signifying the burning sun and coming up and down the main streets in the fire parade.
  •         Cleaning the house before the New Year Eve is the most widespread tradition in the world and can hardly be attributed solely to the Scots or Vikings.
  •         Interesting is the first-footing custom, which means the first guest of the new year crossing the house threshold. If you are a nice young gal seeking for love on the New Year Eve, don’t be afraid of a tall dark-haired stranger coming into your house during Hogmanay and be sure to catch him under the mistletoe, it’s an absolutely common practice among Scots. If he brings something sweet like shortbread or black bun, be sure it would bring you enormous luck. If he brings some whisky, well, at least you will able to hear a fair Scottish toast and at the end sing Auld Lang Syne, which is also a good old tradition you’ll have the lovely memories of.

Have you not yet changed your mind concerning your holidays? Would you like to take part in a Hogmanay festival or torchlight procession and watch the fireworks lightening the picturesque landscapes of Scotland? Are you ready to visit the neighbors you’ll never meet again,  raise a glass of whisky for a toast and sing Auld Lang Syne altogether?  

Share with us! The whole team of the Viking Workshop is wishing you merry (upcoming) Christmas and a happy New Year!