New-Year’s day is the only holy-day in Scotland, which has kept its ground in spite of the stern scowl of John Knox, and the severe prohibitions, worse than monkish, of the Presbyterian Reformers.
The country gentlemen and the richer citizens indeed, are beginning again to observe Christmas for the purpose, it should seem, of distancing themselves as far as possible, from the vulgar ; as few of the peasantry in Scotland know at all when Christmas-day comes, no more than they know Lent, Lady-day, or Piaster.
But New-Year’s day is kept sacred by the Scots peasantry—not to Catholic mummeries and the meaningless grimace of square brows and solemn looks—your Scots Pharisee keeps those only for Sunday appearances and church-going:—New-Year’s day, in Scotland, is sacred to fun and frolic, and all the blythe merriment which first fitting, whisky, and het pints can bestir in the heart, and mantle over the glad countenances of old and young in their only holy-day in the year.
The het pint is made by warming two English quarts of the strongest old ale, either Edinburgh or Alloa, with nutmeg and ginger, and half an English pint of the best small still whisky to it: some add an egg, but this is not always done.
A most delicious morning whet it is; the best cordial in the world for driving the frost from the stomach, and for clearing up the drowsy eyes of a hardy lowland farmer when his neighbours, as soon as the spence clock strikes twelve, rush in with “jovial laugh and merry song,” to wish him a happy new year and mony o’ them, and all eager to be first to hand him a glass of their het pint, or of their well primed bottle and a bit of their currant bun, just for a lid to keep out the cauld air from the hall door of the stomach.
In return for their morning kindness the first-fitters are next entertained with a similar whet cup from the stores of the house, with the variety perhaps of a server of nice short bread, well garnished with carraway comfits, being handed round as a double stomach-lid, or valve of safety, to secure the bun from displacement should any unmannerly gas attempt to force its way out of the stomach, in making its escape from the whisky or the hot ale.
What wonders are effected in Scotland by the very sound of the word New-Year’s day ! All is revelry and wassail rout among old and young, and no one refuses the morning glass, neither sinner nor saint, though it may be the only drop of comfort indulged in for the whole year.
But we shall leave them to enjoy their substantial New Year’s day breakfast of fried white puddings, broiled beef or mutton ham, and buttered oat cake, and tell how
To make a Scots Currant Bun for New-Year’s Day.
This, we may add, will also serve for Hansel Munonday, and bits for occasional visiters, and for the children; but it must only be eaten in little bits by young people and invalids if they would avoid the stomach-ache and disordered bowels.
Wash, pick, and plump, as before directed, three pounds of currants ; stone and shred a pound of raisins of the sun ; mix with these three ounces of sliced orange peel, four ounces of citron, and five ounces of blanched almonds -cut rather large; season with a very little salt and spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamoms, cloves, nutmeg, &c., according to taste, all being very thoroughly mixed.
Take half a Scots peck of flour, well dried, and make a hole in it, to receive a pound of fresh butter melted with half an English pint of cream, and as much new milk; work these well together and add half an English pint of fresh yeast, working up the paste till it be smooth and light.
Roll out the paste and put the fruit on it with four or five spoonfuls of yeast, working the whole well together, and then bring it into the proper shape. Before putting it in the oven pass a skewer through it in several places, and make small holes all round. Wrap it in several folds of floured paper and put it in an oven moderately heated. Two hours will bake it.
Source: The Family oracle of health, 1824