Have you had a good New Year? Up here at RGU in North-East Scotland we certainly have! Of course, in Scotland it’s virtually mandatory to celebrate the end of the old year and the start of the new one with family and neighbours. Often, indeed invariably, this involves a glass or two of some companionable fluid. Interestingly, it’s thought that the origins of our celebrations lie with the Vikings. In the 8th and 9th centuries the invading Norsemen were pagans who were particularly enthusiastic about celebrating the Winter Solstice. The Vikings were actually superb navigators and craftsmen, not just hairy warrior-raiders (although they were that too), and like us they enjoyed bright lights, spectacular fire displays and having a good time.
In fact, the modern firework displays and torchlight processions which are enjoyed throughout Scotland can be traced to the Vikings. Their festivities involved people wrapping themselves in cattle hides and would also include the lighting of bonfires and tossing torches to ward off evil spirits. This smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay and many of these customs continue in the older communities of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
However, closer to home, one of the most impressive fire ceremonies takes place in the coastal town of Stonehaven, about 15 miles south of Aberdeen. Huge fireballs are swung around on long metal poles. Each pole requires many men to carry it and the fireballs are paraded up and down Stonehaven High Street. The origin of this rite is believed to lie in the Winter Solstice. It is said that the swinging fireballs signify the power of the sun, purifying the world by consuming evil spirits.
However, great balls of fire are not the only thing which the New Year in the North-East is famous for: we also, like many others, like to make resolutions. These, apparently, date back to the Babylonians, some 4,000 years ago. With that in mind, I decided to find out what the most common ones are and after extensive research (i.e. I Googled it), I found a host of different lists. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that most of them are more or less the same, so here is my favourite one, from a YouGov poll, which also showed that over two-thirds of us do make such resolutions…
- Eat better — 37 per cent
- Exercise more — 37 per cent
- Spend less money — 37 per cent
- Self-care (e.g. getting more sleep) — 24 per cent
- Read more books —18 per cent
- Learn a new skill — 15 per cent
- Get a new job — 14 per cent
- Make new friends — 13 per cent
- New hobby — 13 per cent
- Focus more on appearance — 12 per cent
- Focus on relationship — 12 per cent
- Cut down on cigarettes/alcohol — 9 per cent
- Go on more dates — 7 per cent
- Focus less on appearance — 3 per cent
All great stuff, especially, dare we say it, Numbers 6 and 7. It may be a cliché at this time of year, but many people do like to look for new job or perhaps to try something different in January. Over the course of 2018 we shall almost certainly have a lot of new and different jobs available here at RGU and we’ll be telling you more about these in some future blogs. In the meantime, if I were you I’d get on with all those other resolutions listed above, or even just a few of them. And who knows: if you do get a great new job, whether with us or anywhere else, you may even be able to ignore Number 3 in the list above!
Julie Skinner, Resourcing & Benefit Specialist