Scots is a very expressive language and it has many useful turns of phrase. It is not surprising that many of these phrases revolve around key events in life. One of the biggest annual events in Scotland is ‘The New Year’. The days of celebration that herald the advent of the new year kick off with ‘Hogmanay’. Hogmanay in English is New Years Eve and in Scotland this is an opportunity for parties, fireworks, dancing and an occasional tipple of ‘uisge beatha’ - literal translation of the Gaelic, ‘water of life’, or in simple terms Whisky. Scots like to visit each other ‘at the bells’ (the stroke of midnight) and pronounce ‘blessings’ upon their friends for the coming year. One of the most popular blessings is the traditional phrase: ‘lang may yer lum reek’.
So what does this Caledonian-Blessing mean? In literal terms it translates as ‘long may your chimney smoke’.
When you pronounce this midnight-blessing upon your friends and family you are not passing comment on the condition of their chimney or enquiring if the sweeps visit is a little overdue. Rather, you are wishing them a long and healthy life. The ‘smoking Lum’ symbolises all the blessings and provisions necessary for a full, healthy life throughout the coming year.
As we step over the threshold of 2022 we can hope that this year will be different from the past couple. We can hope that the dangers of Covid will wane. We can hope that our civic freedoms will be restored. We can hope that families and friends can meet together freely and safely. We can hope that we can holiday. We hope that our trashed-economy might begin to recover. We can hope for health, wealth, happiness and a long life. So as we begin our 2022 journey may I be one of the first to greet and bless you with the words …
… ‘lang may yer lum reek’