Happy New Year, everyone! I’ve just returned, having spent the holidays with family in Edinburgh, Scotland. An old and beautiful city, I had the privilege of living there for a few years. It is always good to get back.
New Year’s Eve is called Hogmanay in Scotland, and is celebrated pretty uproariously as you might guess. In Edinburgh, they fire a massive barrage of fireworks from the castle at the stroke of midnight. This was the view around the corner from us.
The Scottish have lots of traditions for Hogmanay. First footing is a well-known example. This particular superstition demands that in order to receive good fortune for the coming year that the first person to cross your doorstep be a tall, dark-haired man. I remember being very confused my first time, being suddenly shoved out into the cold while everyone stayed inside hugging and cheering. But it is an honour, I’m told.
This year, someone taller beat me to it. But I did see something new that perhaps is a tradition in the making, or one imported from somewhere else that I have just never seen.
I first stumbled across it as we were heading outside just before midnight, spotting a strange floating light in the sky. A passing kid confirmed she saw the same thing, and like me did not for an instant buy her mother’s explanation that it was just an airplane. No way! It was moving much too slow and definitely a UFO of some sort, at least for the moment.
After the bells had gone and the fireworks over, we looked up again and then saw that the air was now full of them. Someone said they were large paper lanterns, which I then remembered seeing for sale in a shop earlier. Powered by a candle, they glowed a beautiful soft yellow and rose up like hot-air balloons to be carried away on the breeze.
There was something about these flying lanterns that startled me much more than the eye-melting spectacle and booming explosions that had just finished. I suppose it was just the simple beauty of the tiny drifting lights, making their slow but steady progress across the sky. Swept up by the wind, the glowing globes were all off on their own unknown journeys, each to end sadly and quietly somewhere far from view.
For the short moment I watched the simple lights sailing across the starry sky, they were somehow incredibly touching. They reminded me now so much of people’s lives, bright spots in the darkness, traveling boldly into uncertainty.
And I now find myself wondering where they all came back down to earth.