A Scottish New Year…
Coming to live North of the Border we knew that New Year would be significant – what we didn’t know was that Christmas Day has only been a public holiday in Scotland since 1958. Many of our new friends from the Methodist community remember when 25th December was a normal working day – a practice which has roots in the presbyterian/puritan history of this nation. Happily we have had some good services, however, with small but enthusiastic congregations.
The past few days have been a voyage of discovery for us in lots of ways as we have asked questions about how both the celebration of the Incarnation and the marking of a new calendar year are observed here. My good (Glaswegian) friend Kathleen kindly gave us a “Hogmanay kit” containing shortbread and ginger wine – the two staples to be offered to first-footers (not that we had any), although apparently it is also traditional to eat steak pie once “The Bells” have sounded, marking midnight (this we didn’t do!) We didn’t hear any bells, in fact, but have enjoyed learning more about the culture, customs and kindliness of our new community.
Yesterday, with Andrew’s mother who is staying for a few days, we walked the streets of Glasgow, sensing the building excitement – something was about to happen… Venturing into new territory we found the Roman Catholic Cathedral, St. Andrew’s, where a wedding was about to start – and very splendid it all looked. At one side of the Cathedral we stumbled into a beautiful, quiet courtyard, with large upright mirrors, channels of water, plants and, on most of the mirrors, quotations. I saw this one first, by the Italian author, Silone, and was immensely struck by its message: “God’s presence is not only discerned in Church but also in feelings of isolation and abandonment”.
For those for whom New Year brings loneliness, bitter memories or other pain, I hope there is a message there, and also for all of us who expect 2016 to bring many hours within the walls of one church or another… We send our greetings to all friends at the start of this new year – may it be one of unexpected discoveries and fruitful encounters. Jill