The celebration of Christmas was banned for almost 400 years in Scotland (outlawed during the Protestant Reformation) and so Hogmanay (December 31) and the New Year became the focus of mid-winter festivities. The period after Christmas up to Handsel Monday (the first Monday of the New Year when people exchanged a small gift as a token of luck) became known as the “Daft Days”. This was a time of fun and light-hearted good cheer and was the subject of Robert Fergusson’s 1772 poem “The Daft-Days”. Here’s an extract:
When merry Yule-day comes, I trou,
You’ll scantlins find a hungry mou;
Sma are our cares, our stamacks fou
O’ gusty gear,
And kickshaws, strangers to our view,
Ye browster wives, now busk ye braw,
And fling your sorrows far awa;
Then come and gie’s the tither blaw
Of reaming ale,
Mair precious than the well of Spa,
Our hearts to heal.
Then, tho’ at odds wi a’ the warl’,
Amang oursels we’ll never quarrel;
Tho’ Discord gie a canker’d snarl
To spoil our glee,
As lang’s there’s pith into the barrel
We’ll drink and ‘gree.
Fidlers, your pins in temper fix,
And roset weel your fiddle-sticks;
But banish vile Italian tricks
Frae out your quorum,
Not fortes wi pianos mix –
Gie’s Tulloch Gorum.
For nought can cheer the heart sae weel
As can a canty Highland reel;
It even vivifies the heel
To skip and dance:
Lifeless is he wha canna feel
Let mirth abound, let social cheer
Invest the dawning of the year;
Let blithesome innocence appear
To crown our joy;
Nor envy wi sarcastic sneer
Our bliss destroy.
Robert Fergusson, 1772
You can read the full poem online at the Scottish Poetry Library.