Mungo invades the Christmas Tree
Mungo invades the Christmas Tree

How was your Uphalieday? What about your Handsel Monday, Feast of the Holy Innocents or Plough Monday? Did you take down the decorations on Epiphany?

You might have gathered I’m fond of folklore and, if I had my way, would like to revive many old traditions. When it comes to January festivals, we tend to think of the relatively modern Burns Night (25th), which started only 220 years ago when our national poet’s friends began to celebrate his memory through haggis, whisky, speeches, song and (latterly) ceilidh dancing. I’m all in favour – though may not see one of these for a year or two.

I’m a Christmas Carol at heart, so taking down our beautiful tree decorations always breaks my heart – though at least we’ll no longer be battling our cat every night, as he climbs inside the tree, chews on the fairy lights and attempts to hurl every single decoration to the floor. It’s nearly as bad as his recent psychotic attacks on the new printer.

Since I do the tree-dressing, I’ve realised my husband and son should do the dismantling, since it’s less likely to bring them to tears. Perhaps it’s that nearly every decoration has a poignant memory or a wee story behind it – surely at least one tale for every week of this, Scotland’s Year of Stories.

For example, those embroidered-felt Kings, from my English-teaching days in Budapest 30 years ago; one of the snowiest winters I’ve experienced. That Burns night, I found myself amongst 200 Hungarian Burns fanatics in a community centre, who praised him as eloquently, sang and ceilidh-danced as well as any Scots. I made some friends for life that year, though I didn’t learn much more than how to order a half-kilo of plums at the market.

Last night (5th January) is also known as Auld Yule in some remoter places. I observe the modern-day 25th December Christmas, but if I’d been born into medieval nobility I could have started the festivities on first November and carried on till second February – if only! Sadly, we’re expected to bin the tree and resume work around now, but at least Christmas Day is now a public holiday (only since 1958, in Scotland).

To honour Uphalieday/ Twelfth Night, we consumed the last of the Christmas pudding. My husband discovered the dried bean in his portion, was crowned Bean King for the evening and got to choose the board game (Trivial Pursuit, Music Edition), played while watching the last of the holly branches burn on the fire. (A muddle of ancient rituals.)

There was no party for my friend who turned 60 on Christmas Eve. Instead, I handwrote him a letter reminiscing about our forty-year friendship and how meeting him had led to so many wonderful things in the rest of my life (surprisingly therapeutic, with a coffee and cake).

We’d a Zoom Quiz with families we’d normally spend Hogmanay with, and I’ve phoned a few old friends over the season.

Plans must keep changing, as our Community Connections services sadly had to this Christmas – and many gatherings must wait a bit longer. We miss you, and look forward to when we can invite you together again at Scone Café – once it feels safe enough and we have enough volunteers emerging from isolation!

Happily, we can restart our Coffee Connections and Buddy Walks from now!

Meantime, let’s cherish any opportunity for human connection – whether striking up a chat at the doorstep, phoning someone out of the blue, or reviving the art of letter writing, with a thank-you to someone kind. And don’t forget to celebrate St Mungo’s Day on 13 January. Our cat is called Mungo. Did I say Saint?…

Our love and blessings go out to all of you, so send us your stories this year and stay in touch. You are not forgotten.

Carol Stobie, Connections Coordinator