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Scottish Traditions: Burn’s Night

Burns night Scottish traditions image

Burns Night

Burns Night is a traditional celebration of Scotland’s national bard, or poet, Robert Burns. It is held on 25th January, Burns’s birthday, when Burns suppers are held. They consist of a meal, poetry recitals and songs. The first supper was held at Burns Cottage by his friends on 21st July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death.

If you think that you don’t know any of Burns’s work, ask yourself if you have ever sung Auld Lang Syne on Hogmanay/New Year’s Eve or used the lines “My love is like a red, red rose” on a Valentine card. If you have then you are familiar with some of his best-known work. Burns wrote his first poem aged 15 and in his short life wrote a vast number of songs and poems that can be accessed here. He wrote in a light Scots dialect which was easier for those outside Scotland to understand and often wrote about very humble subjects, for example, his poem “To a Mouse” is inspired by the field mice Burns saw while ploughing on his farm.

The Life of Robert Burns

Burns was born on 25th January 1759 in Alloway south of Ayr, the son of poor tenant farmers. He received little regular schooling, but his father taught him to read and write along with arithmetic, history and geography. He was also taught Latin, French and maths by John Murdoch.

For much of his life Burns, like his father, was a tenant farmer, all the while writing poetry and songs. But he struggled to make a living from farming and when he was offered a position on a plantation in Jamaica, he decided to emigrate. He could not afford the passage and a friend suggested he try to publish some of his work to raise the funds. In 1786 Poems in the Scottish Dialect was published and became an immediate success. Later that year Burns left for Edinburgh to publish a second edition which again was successful and earned him a substantial sum of money. He was well received in Edinburgh, often a guest of aristocracy, and made many friends, some becoming sponsors.

In 1787 Burns returned to southwest Scotland taking a lease on a farm in Dumfriesshire, but he also trained as an exciseman in case the farm was unsuccessful. He gave up farming in 1791 and moved to Dumfries where he made contributions to several volumes of songs, sometimes adding his own lyrics to traditional folk melodies and composing his own melodies from fragments of tunes. He continued to write poetry too, some advocating reform such as “The Slaves Lament”.

He continued to work as an exciseman, often making long journeys on horseback in all weathers and this may have contributed to his ill-health at a rather young age for the time. On 21st July 1796 Burns died aged just 37.  His body lies in the Burns Mausoleum is St. Michael’s Kirkyard, Dumfries along with that of his wife at the time, Jean Armour.

Burns is renowned for having had many romantic relationships which resulted in several children being born, although not all survived infancy. Today over 900 people worldwide claim to be descendants of Burns.

Host your own Burns Night

Due to covid-19 restrictions, many Burn’s suppers will be cancelled this year, but you could host your own with your household.

Need some inspiration to host your own Burns Supper? Why not try out some Burns Night recipes here. Penguin books have a guide on how to run your night and for inspiration, you can listen to or read some of Burns’s work through our Library.

By Vivienne Hamilton

Learn about other World traditions on our blog by reading:

New Year Traditions from Around the World

Spanish Christmas Traditions

Self-care books for 2022

January is here again, but to brighten up a new year, you might be thinking about what you want to achieve for 2022, whether that is trying something new or even just a refresh! Self-help books can be a great way to encourage those positive thoughts and that extra motivation in your life.

 

Book and Tea

Book and Tea

 

Here are some recommendations below:

 

Isn’t it about time? by Andrea Perry

If you are one for procrastinating tasks, this book provides ways to be more productive and learn to trust our instincts and abilities. Also available on our Library Search  https://napier.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/44NAP_INST/n96pef/alma9923500069002111

 

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

This memoir-style book shares life experiences and small motivations for the day.

 

Relax and Read

Relax and Read

Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness by Vex King

Vex King helps you to show a way of manifesting your goals and desires using different techniques and positive thinking. From the author’s personal experiences, the book practices methods of mindfulness to healthy lifestyle habits.

 

At Napier, we also have books in our Shelf Help that are chosen to help you overcome experiences, thoughts and feelings that are stressful or uncomfortable.

You can find more books and information in the link below:

https://libguides.napier.ac.uk/shelfhelp

 

 

 

The Ethiopia Timkat Festival

The Timkat Festival

Christmas is a distant memory for most of us, but for Ethiopians, Christmas is a whole season that’s just coming to an end now. Ethiopia was one of the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity, and as such it adheres to the ancient traditions that sit at the heart of its Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Timkat, celebrated every year on the 19th of January, is one of those traditions, possibly the most important in the Church’s calendar.

The Amharic word timkat means “baptism”, and the festival marks the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.

Preparations

Timkat is a huge deal and a seriously religious festival. Preparations for this spectacular event, possibly one of the biggest and most colourful on the African continent, begin on the 18th, when “tabots” – models of the  Ark of the Covenant – are wrapped in fine cloths and carried on the heads of priests down to the river or other place of worship. Local people don white shawls – Ethiopians wear white when they go to church – and follow the procession.

The Festival

Mass starts in the early hours of the 19th and continues for hours. When Mass is over, the water is blessed and the congregants take to the rivers, submerging themselves in a re-enactment of Christ’s baptism. Of course, it’s a happy occasion and that means the celebrations go on all day and are accompanied by feasting and music.  As well as eating their favourite Timkat food, Ethiopians celebrate important occasions with elaborate coffee ceremonies.

On the 20th, the tabots are carried back to the churches in another procession that marks the end of the festival.

One of the best places to observe Timkat is the town of Gondar, home to the 17th century castle built by King Fasilides. In the grounds of the castle is a huge open-air bath. The bath is usually empty, but during Timkat it’s filled with water and the locals dive in. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit Ethiopia over the festive season. I missed Timkat by a couple of weeks. When I visited King Fasilides castle it was empty. Next time I go, I’m definitely going for Timkat, and I’m taking my swimming costume.

Want to learn more about other traditions from around the world? Read our article here.

By Lesley McRobb

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today is Martin Luther King day, an American holiday that is always celebrated on the third Monday in January. It’s almost 54 years since Dr King, a Baptist minister and lifelong campaigner, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, but the work to which he sacrificed his life continues.

MLK is most famous, for his “I had a dream…” speech, but the reality of civil rights activism is that it’s less about rallies and speeches and more a daily struggle for the most mundane of rights – a struggle that is played out in factories, playgrounds, homes and schools, well away from the cameras and microphones.

 

 

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King

 

King was in Memphis in April 1968 to support African American sanitation workers who were deprived of the most basic of rights that their white counterparts enjoyed – the right to shelter from the rain, the right to shower after their shift, the lack of overtime payments. The final straw came when 2 black workers were crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck and their families were barely compensated. The workers went on strike, and MLK went to support them.

In recognition of King’s contribution to the struggle for equality, Illinois was the first US state to acknowledge the holiday, and King was the first African American to have a national holiday in his honour.

 

March

March

 

The international struggle for equality continues. As King himself said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 

Read Dr King’s most famous speech in full. You’ll find it in LibrarySearch:

The Penguin book of twentieth-century speeches

Becoming King Martin Luther King, Jr. and the making of a national leader

 

By Lesley McRobb

 

Library Welcome Week

welcome sign outside library

Welcome to the Library!

Hello and a very warm welcome to all students joining us this trimester from all of us in the Library. We wish you all the best with your studies and look forward to meeting many of you soon.

Whether you are on campus or studying online, if you are looking for information on how to use the Library services the Introduction to Computing and Library Services module on Moodle is an excellent starting point.

Introductory Sessions

We will be holding quick and friendly online introductory sessions to both the Physical Library and the Online Library during the first few weeks of the trimester. You can sign up for these and many other library skills sessions using the Training and Events Calendar.

Information on Library opening times, how to access or borrow the resources you need for your studies, accessing reading lists, and many more library services can be found on the Library webpages. If you need any further support, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0131 455 3500 or email us at library@napier.ac.uk . We are here to help you!

Keep up to date on all the latest news from the Library on Instagram and Twitter.

New Year Resolutions: study and social

We hope all our Edinburgh Napier University students and staff had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s with some time to relax and catch up with friends and family.

With the festivities now over, you might be thinking that it’s time to make some resolutions and get back into that ‘serious study mode’.

It’s also a time to reflect on past events and your studies to see what you might want to freshen up and change for the new year. Just keep in mind that progress is always ongoing, and you should focus on one step at a time!

 

 

New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions

 

 

Here are some suggestions that you might want to consider below:

 

  1. Change your learning style or study skills

If you want to change your study habits or try a new way of learning, Box of Broadcasts (BOB) and listening to Podcasts are productive ways of gathering information and evidence for your assignments. You can find more information about it on our Libguides.

The library also has a study skills reading list and many books available like Improving Your Study Skills by Shelley O’Hara for improving the way you learn.

 

Study planning

Study planning

 

  1. Balancing education and work or your social life

This could be the year where you decide to prioritise your time wisely and manage your schedule to avoid burnout. You might want to break up the week by scheduling tasks into your calendar or stick colourful post-it notes around your room as visual reminders. Your education should be your priority and then you can consider what to do in your spare time such as music, sports or travelling!

 

  1. Try new activities

Whatever the weather, if you have a burning desire for adventures in the outdoors, like kayaking, hikes and walks in the hills, then the Hiking and Outdoor Activities society at Edinburgh Napier may be the one for you this year!

You can join more of Napier’s societies in the link below:

https://www.napierstudents.com/teamnapiersocieties/atozsocieties/

 

 

Hiking

Hiking

New Year Traditions from Around the World

World New Year Traditions

A lump of coal just won’t cut it anymore. I need a more carbon-neutral gift to take to my neighbours at New Year, and you don’t get much more carbon-laden than a lump of coal. I started to wonder if there were any tips I could pick up from revellers around the world. My research didn’t offer up any gifts, but I did find some interesting traditions – some quite quirky – that I may adopt.

Japan

Let’s start in the land of the rising sun.  Joya-no-kane is the ancient Japanese tradition of ringing temple bells. The bell is typically rung 107 times on 31st December and once more when the clock strikes midnight. According to Buddhist philosophy, 108 is a holy number, representing as it does the 108 material desires that humans experience throughout the course of their lives. When the bell is struck for the 108th time, it is believed it rings away the problems and worries from the previous year. Many temples attract huge crowds of worshippers on these occasions. The Chion-in temple in Kyoto and Nara’s Todaiji temple are famous for their gigantic bells, the ringing of which requires the efforts of more than a dozen monks.

Brazil

Down in Brazil a rowdier, yet no less spiritual tradition, is unfolding as the goddess Iemanjá, Queen of the Ocean, rises out of the sea in Rio de Janeiro (in the form of a human representative). Revellers flock to the beach as fireworks explode overhead and samba music fills the air. Up to 2 million people, typically wearing white as a sign of peace, place white flowers and floating candles on the shore and send them out as offerings to the goddess, hoping that she’ll grant their wishes in the new year.  But beware – if your offer is washed back to you, Iemanjá is not pleased and may not grant your wish.

Costa Rica

Moving north, and those Costa Ricans really know how to celebrate. You’re welcome to join in as they feast all night and party on the beach. Make sure you dress for the occasion, though – and that means wearing yellow underwear for good luck. Oh, and don’t forget to throw a pan of water – containing all your worries – over your shoulder. The most endearing Costa Rican tradition, in my opinion, is the practice of taking a suitcase for a walk around the neighbourhood to ensure plenty of travel opportunities in the year to come. In these Covid-restricted times, however, it may be best to park the suitcase for the time being. Maybe next year!

Greece

Back in Europe, and the Greeks take a belts-and-braces approach to luck – letting out the bad and welcoming in the good. It’s customary for Greeks to hang an onion on their front doors as a sign of prosperity and regrowth. And on the stroke of midnight, Greeks open all their windows to release those pesky evil spirits, the kallikantzaroi. Try doing that during a Scottish Hogmanay hoolie!

Scotland

Speaking of Scotland. Here we celebrate New Year’s in a big way. The Scots call New Year Hogmanay and it’s used as an excuse for big parties such as Ceilidhs, usually involving large amounts of traditional Scottish food and drink. Once Midnight arrives it is traditional to sing Robert Burns‘ “Auld Lang Syne” whilst holding hands in a circle.

Another Scottish tradition still common is “First footing”. This involves being the first person over the threshold of another’s home bringing a symbolic gift for good luck. If you are being truly traditional it should be a dark-haired male, and he should bring with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. The dark-haired male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your doorstep with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year! (source)

Denmark

But it’s those northerners, the Danes, who have a really smashing tradition. On New Year’s eve in Denmark, it’s time to gather up all your old broken and chipped crockery and smash it against your friends’ doors. They claim it’s a sign of lifelong friendship, and who am I to argue? After all that exertion, you reward yourself with a slice of kransekage, a huge cake made of layered marzipan. Pity there’s no plate left to serve it on.

However you celebrate, wherever you are, we wish you a very happy New Year, Akemashite Omedetou, Feliz Ano Novo, Feliz Año Nuevo, ευτυχισμένος ο καινούριος χρόνος, Godt Nytår.

By Lesley McRob

Read more about New Year on our blog with our articles on Spanish traditions and New Year’s resolutions

Spanish New Year

New Year in Spain

Not for Spaniards the heavy stodge of black bun or shortbread. They prefer something altogether lighter to bring in the New Year. To navigate the transition between the old year and the year to come – año nuevo – Spaniards stay at home, and, at midnight, it’s customary to eat las doce uvas (the twelve lucky grapes), one on each stroke of the clock.

It doesn’t matter if they’re red or white, seedless or not, eating 12 grapes is supposed to bring good luck, prosperity, and happiness for the year ahead because they represent each month of the year.

The truth is that the practice became established in 1909, when some of Alicante’s vine growers popularized this custom in order to sell huge numbers of grapes from an excellent harvest.

Before COVID arrived (and ideally again in the future), families or friends usually got together for a delicious dinner and then meet in the central square or any iconic local place to welcome the new year on this special and magic night.

The chiming of the clock is broadcast on TV all over Spain. After eating the grapes, the atmosphere is an explosion of joy, fireworks, confetti, music and dance until the early hours.

This year

This year like the previous one, the excitement will need to be much more contained and restricted in order to protect one another. However, I still encourage you to make the most of it with a physical or virtual toast, good wishes and resolutions.

Let’s be hopeful about 2022 and the good things to come. And above all, don’t forget to prepare your lucky grapes: the race to swallow all twelve before the clock stops chiming is lots of fun and your 5 a day fruit intake will be more than accomplished!

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!\

by Emi Pastor

Read about Spanish Christmas traditions in our earlier post here

 

Spanish Christmas Traditions

A Spanish-style Traditional Christmas by Emi Pastor

Christmas in Spain is not so very different from Christmas elsewhere, but there are one or two traditions that may sound slightly exotic to Scottish ears, and I’ll set them out here.

First of all, our festive period is longer, running from the 22nd December until the 7th of January. We celebrate the end of Christmas with presents brought from faraway lands by the Three Wise Men (traditionally marked by the Epiphany). This, of course, makes the youngest members of the family very merry, but it pleases the grownups too. Traditionally Santa Claus has never been recognised in Spain, but nowadays that is changing, and like the reyes mago” (3 wise men), he now sometimes brings presents too.

The Spanish Lottery

A more recent, and much more secular tradition, is El Gordo, the Spanish Christmas Lottery. This, too, is celebrated on the 22nd of December. It’s the most popular draw of the year in Spain and in fact, is considered the biggest worldwide since it was first celebrated in 1812. Winning El Gordo’s jackpot is one of the best Spanish Christmas presents you could hope for.

As in many other parts of the world, Christmas trees, fancy city lights, and splashes of red, green, and white decorations make their appearance during the festive period. However, something quite particular we have is the Portal de Belén: tiny models of Bethlehem to represent the Nativity, with many accompanying structures such as the desert, town, angel, shepherds and farm animals.

Continue reading

Staying on Campus over Christmas?

Christmas is a period of relaxation and spending time with family and friends. However, some students may be staying on campus over Christmas due to living far away and this can be an opportunity to explore festive activities or take some time to relax.

There are advantages to staying on campus over Christmas like having more space, peace, and quiet! The library even has Ebooks to get you in the mood for Christmas for example the classic, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Activities include the Christmas Market, Edinburgh Napier University’s Carol Service, and Hogmanay 2022. There is even a Christmas Tree Maze you can get lost in and the Santa Fun Run & Walk at Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh is open to registration to help fundraise for Children in Scotland who live with threatening illnesses:

Edinburgh Christmas Market

Edinburgh Christmas Market

https://www.whenyouwishuponastar.org.uk/events/2021-12-05-edinburgh-santa-fun-run-walk-2021

https://www.edinburghschristmas.com/

https://www.napier.ac.uk/about-us/term-dates/christmas-arrangements/whats-on-in-edinburgh

https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/

 

Perhaps you may want to visit and check-in with your friends, which also opens opportunities to explore more of the United Kingdom. Or even hike the wonderful mountains and hills of the Scottish Highlands, where you may even find patches of Snow- the Cairngorm Mountain near Aviemore is best known for Skiing and Snowboarding in Scotland!

 

Snowy mountain Highlands

Snowy mountain Highlands

 

The University is here if you need a little extra support over the holidays:

https://www.napier.ac.uk/study-with-us/undergraduate/student-support

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