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Happy New Year! And before anyone says anything – no, I’m not late to the party – in actual fact, the rest of the world turned up too early.
Today (13th January) residents on the remote island of Foula will celebrate New Year. Newerday (New Year's day) celebrations in this remote outpost of the Shetland archipelago will see the bringing in of the New Year in the company of friends and neighbours. The island, home to around 30 people lies about 20 miles (32 km) to the west of Shetland and is arguably the UK's remotest inhabited islands. This tradition is also marked by several communities in the northern isles of Yell and Unst. This custom is not reserved solely for New Year. Those living in Foula also celebrate Yule (or Christmas) later (on 6th January), so as the rest of us put away our decoration, those living in Foula are just getting going.
It should also be noted that there are further discrepancies here too (just to confuse the matter more). Throughout Shetland, everyone celebrated these calendar occasions according to the Julian calendar with the majority of mainland Shetland celebrating on the 5th and 12th respectively. Foula lagged behind, holding their celebrations one day later (on the 6th and 13th) – probably adopting these days in a leap year (1800) – if that makes sense – I have to admit that I struggle with it.
So how did all this calendar confusion happen? In 45 BC Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar. And as the Roman Empire grew, so too did the use of the Roman Julian calendar, which became almost universally observed throughout Europe. However, the Solar year – dependent on the moon’s lunar cycle, is slightly longer – only 10 minutes a year but, over the course of time, this accumulates and by 1582 a 10-day gap had arisen. In order to re-align the calendar with the solstices and equinoxes, the Gregorian calendar was established and these 10 days were lost.
As with everything, the progress of modernity and the implementation of change is slow and the calendar was only formally adopted in Scotland in 1752 (by then the difference totalled 11 days), however many rural areas, like Shetland, chose to ignore it altogether and continued to observe the 2,000-year-old Julian calendar until much later.
And as the residents of Foula gather together to celebrate we should point out that they are not alone, other areas in the world still adhere to this ancient calendar and the deeply-imbedded traditions associated with it. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Berber community of North Africa being two examples – so they, along with the 30 strong population of Foula, they all deserve a mention on this New Year's Eve.
Happy Newerday, Foula and all the best for 2019!
Lang may your lum reek...
(And for the rest of us - an opportunity to reimplement the resolutions which may have fallen by the wayside as January's grip strengthens.)
You can read another blog I wrote about New Year celebrations for Promote Shetland, here.
A little about Laurie
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for, whether you are planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.