The New Year is fast upon us. Have you made any plans to ring in 2016?
Maybe you have excited youngsters who can’t wait to wave glow sticks in your city or town at a family-friendly celebration. Perhaps you have family visiting for the holidays, when the last days of December become moments to savor before returning them to the airport.
Maybe your tradition involves a more casual get-together with old friends at home. Or perhaps this year is a real treat and you’ve booked a romantic dinner for two, planning to linger over a leisurely gourmet meal.
Over the years, I’ve had a chance to spend December 31st in many of these ways. Yet I’ve never had the pleasure of greeting the New Year in Stonehaven, a Scottish town south of Aberdeen along the northeast coast. Something about witnessing Stonehaven’s fireballs ceremony whispers to the place inside of me where my Highlander series’ characters reside.
In the early 1700s when my “>Highlander Series takes place, Highland society was a curious mix of belief systems. Though Christianity was firmly in place in the Lowlands, some Highland parishes were still trying to bring their Gaelic-speaking people to the church by translating bibles into their native tongue.
Scottish winter solstice ceremonies once walked in step with Christmas feast-day observances until the Reformation in the mid-1600s. Although Christmas was officially downplayed in Scotland until well into the 20th century in favor of New Year’s or Hogmanay, somehow the ancient fire ceremonies persisted.
The urge to light up the darkness of winter as one year waned and a new one dawned once found townsfolk throughout Scotland gathering around bonfires or taking part in torchlight processions. Long believed to be an agent of cleansing, fire was welcomed in order to chase away evil spirits or bad luck from their towns and livelihoods.
In Stonehaven, for example, the fireballs are swung in impressive circles by hardy souls as they walk along the High Street towards the harbor. Constructed of wire cages filled with combustible material, mounted on a wire handle a few feet long, all fireballs are hurled into the sea following the procession. A fishing community’s traditional plea for blessings from the Atlantic Ocean is now handed down to us as a link to Scotland’s ancient past.
Many of the world’s New Year’s traditions involve fireworks, sparklers or other forms of light. All of them point the way through short winter days, bringing the promise of coming spring.
The primal element of fire present in the Stonehaven fireball procession excites me in a way that’s hard to define. I suppose it’s the same attraction that I have to all of my Highlander heroes.
Glow sticks may shine safely in the darkness of December, while fireworks dazzle from high above. The swinging fireballs of Stonehaven can only be wielded by a sure, strong hand. Like my latest heroine Mairi Campbell, I am drawn to witness such elemental power tamed by the touch of a Highlander.
How do you ring in the New Year? Let me know in the comments for a chance to win an autographed copy of TAKEN BY THE HIGHLANDER.
About Julianne MacLean
Julianne MacLean came to the romance genre after completing a degree in English literature. She fell in love with some of the classic romances – Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice – and after a brief stint as a federal government auditor, decided to try her hand at becoming a modern day romance writer.
A three time Rita Finalist and USA Today Bestselling author, Julianne is also a wife and mother who loves to travel. She’s lived in New Zealand and Ottawa, and is now settled happily in Nova Scotia.
About TAKEN BY THE HIGHLANDER – New Release!
A WARRIOR WITH A SECRET
Logan MacDonald, fierce warrior and bold scout for Angus the Lion, hides a shameful secret. When he arrives injured at a crofter’s cottage in Campbell territory during a secret mission for his laird, he is immediately suspected of treachery….
A WOMAN WITH A VISION
When Mairi Campbell stumbles across the mysterious wounded Highlander in a moonlit glen—a member of an enemy clan—she is strangely beguiled and cannot resist the desire to unearth the secrets of his darkened soul. Soon, Mairi surrenders to forbidden passion in his bed, which thrusts her into the middle of a war—in a battle for Scottish freedom, and in a battle against the true desires of her heart….
Photo credit – Mr. Purple/Wikipedia Creative Commons