The changing rituals of my Hogmanays ...

Hogmanay celebrations
Hogmanay celebrations

By Paul McCabe

And a Happy New Year to you!

I hope you all enjoyed the festive season this year. I certainly did, in fact I always have. It’s a break from the norm, which in itself is good enough for me, and not being religious I couldn’t care less that it’s basically lost all its original meaning.

It’s crass, commercial and tacky - good.

Even as a music snob to a ridiculous degree, I quite enjoy hearing the same old rubbish songs each year (‘Last Christmas’ by Wham! aside). My enjoyment of this time of the year has never really abated, though it struck me that the way that you take pleasure from Christmas and New Year changes as you get older.

Firstly and most brilliantly of all, there’s nothing like the excitement of Christmas day as a small child. Nothing. Creeping through on Christmas morning to be greeted by a mound of presents is about as thrilling as it can get when you’re that age. Come the onset of your teenage years that childish innocence is diminished somewhat, but you’re still getting a load of presents as well as a precious two weeks off school.

Then after comes your late teen/early 20s and Christmas and New Year becomes nothing more than a very convenient excuse for going out and getting completely leathered. This was something that I happily went along with year upon year.

It would start on around the 23rd and continue pretty much, with the occasional day off, until Jan 2nd (cursing my friend whose birthday was on the 29th as this meant there was literally no respite for my poor battered liver in between nights out). However my non-stop Christmas party came to an abrupt end when the year arrived that I was unable to eat my Christmas dinner.

My wife and I had been invited to her parents’ house for Christmas and when the time came to sit down to eat the splendid dinner my mother-in-law has spent ages planning and preparing, I was suffering such a monumental hangover from my normal Christmas Eve revelry that I only managed to force down a couple of potatoes and a few measly bits of veg before conceding defeat. I felt deeply ashamed and horribly guilty that all my mother-in-law’s hard work had been for nothing in my case. I swore then not to repeat my idiotic behaviour the following year.

And it was wonderful! Waking up hangover-free on Christmas Day - for the first time in around a decade - was so enjoyable that every Christmas Eve since has been a literally sober affair for me. Hardly an earth-shattering realisation though, is it? Feeling well is better than feeling hungover. But then, I’m not a clever man.

Finally a few years pass and if you happen to follow life’s pattern as I have, the festive season takes a huge and dramatic change, as does everything else, due to the emergence of children. Goodbye going out, hello staying in.

The relatively recent emergence of New Year fireworks - never had them when I were a lad - is another indicator of my change in priorities (and are far more sedate Fife-side than they are in Edinburgh, it’s like the Blitz over there). Whereas once I would have had a “like, uh, whoah dude!” attitude to the midnight display, just a few short years later I was pulling back the curtains and wishing huge and terminal ill-will upon those setting them off because they were “going to wake the baby”.

So my Hogmanay was not spent knocking back pint after pint of lager, necking shots, smoking a billion fags then throwing up in the Meadows. With my wife and sproglets I watched a film, played that game where you stick post-its on each others heads (what is that game called?!) then saw in the bells with Jools Holland (atrocious line-up this year, but never mind). And it was great. Different, quieter, but great.

It won’t be long before my own children will be the ones going out to party at Christmas and it’ll all change for me once again. Whatever happens, I’ll be sure to enjoy it.

Again, Happy New Year.