Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Celebrating Hogmanay at the Stonehaven Fireball Festival

New Years Eve has always been my most favorite holiday. I just love the tradition of smooching your honey at midnight, the symbolism behind starting fresh, and the sentiment of looking back in reflection at the ending year. The holiday grew even more in my high esteem when Jonathan proposed on NYE during a family vacation to South Africa 7 years ago.
Showing Mom the ring.
Spending last New Year’s in Hawaii only added to my fond memories of the final day of the year.
Keeping up with tradition, we decided to spend Hogmanay (Scot speak for NYE) down in Stonehaven at the legendary Fireball festival. The festival and others like it have been occurring since the Middle Ages and originated as a way to celebrate the lengthening of daylight after the Winter Solstice. I can appreciate that tradition and was eager to join in commemorating the milestone.
There aren’t many of us currently in this part of the world, but we rounded up a group of 9 for the outing. Since everything I’d heard said to avoid driving/parking we decided to book spots on a round trip bus out of Aberdeen.
The young population of passengers and the staticky blaring of awful pop music gave me flashbacks of Junior High field trips, but it definitely put me in a party mood. Once we reached Stonehaven, we headed directly to the Marine Hotel to sample some of their Belgian beers. The only table left was outdoors, so we bundled up and drank ice cold brewskies in the 35 degree weather on the breezy coast.
The good thing was that we could order multiple beers at one time without the worry of them getting warm. Yep, they stayed ice cold, just like we Americans like them. Unfortunately, the Marine Hotel which is famous for it’s fish and chips, had stopped selling food, so our friend Fin hunted down a ‘chippery’ and brought back 5 boxes full of ‘chips’ (Scot speak for French fries).
We wolfed them down before the outside temperatures had a chance to flash freeze them. After killing about 3 hours at the pub, we headed down to the parade route to catch a glimpse of the famous fireball throwers.

Just prior to midnight the balls were lit and there was the traditional 10 second countdown before about 45 marchers started walking through the streets of Stonehaven twirling the fireballs around their heads.

It was a spectacular sight, and we eagerly welcomed the warmth from the fireballs as they came within inches of our faces.
The festival website warned not to wear any clothing that you wouldn’t mind getting singed. The problem with having minimal closet space is that I don’t own a coat that isn’t purposeful or loved.  So I just took my chances and wore the warmest thing I own, my down parka- good for temperatures down to 20 degrees. It was like wearing a duvet blanket.
Since I’m short, and the crowd was 8,000 strong, I had a hard time capturing a good picture. My friend Pam was on her husband’s shoulders (newlyweds...) and offered to capture the following video for me you guys.
Here is some footage I found on You Tube to give you another view:
Once the fire procession was finished, everyone rushed to the harbor to see the fireballs being tossed into the harbor followed by a firework show.
We decided to head in the opposite direction of the crowd and instead stood outside the town square to listen to The Red Hot Chili Pipers ring in the New Year with their bagpipes. We figured their closing song would certainly be Auld Lang Syne, not only because it’s the traditional NYE song, but also because it was written by Robert Burns, a famous Scotsman. However, when it came time to close out the show, we were serenaded with the bag piping version of We Will Rock You. I’m still mystified by this particular choice.

Since we didn’t find the Queen song in keeping with the atmosphere we decided to call it a night and just head back to the bus stop. Thirty minutes later we were back in Aberdeen, with another memorable New Year’s Eve under our belts.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like it was a memorable night! Sad we missed it...