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  A Year of Orcadian Tradition

"The Aurora dances in the north like a princess or a tinker lass," says January. "A bird starves here and there."



The first day of the New Year was commonly marked by mass ball games, none of which now survive, except the New Year's Ba' in Kirkwall.

  A New Year tradition, once common in Orkney and Shetland, was the singing of the "Neuer Sang" (New Year Song). This song would appear to be of medieval origin and was, at some point, imported into the islands from mainland Scotland.

Thereafter, the song became a firm part of island tradition and was sung at New Year by wandering bands of young men, who visited each house in their district. The singers were rewarded for their efforts with food and ale.

One of the band was referred to as the "Kyerrin Horse" and this individual was equipped with a straw basket into which the householders deposited "gifts".
  Up until World War One, New Year's Day was observed according to the Julian Calendar - known in the islands as the "old calendar".

January 13 was therefore known as "Aald Neuerday", a tradition maintained in some of the islands longer than others.
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