Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, December 17, 2012

Hogmanay in Scotland by Alexa Bourne

Today I'd like to welcome my good friend Alexa Bourne to History Undressed! She's written a lovely post for us on Hogmanay in Scotland. Enjoy!

Thank you to Eliza for inviting me to guest post here today! I’m very excited. I LOVE reading historical romances and I even tried writing one. Tried is the key word. I was overwhelmed with the amount of research I’d have to do, with the pressure to be completely accurate, and I ended up quitting after writing only 20 pages in 2 months. (For my contemporary stories, I can complete a novella and a short story in that same amount of time!)

So what does a contemporary romantic suspense writer have to share on an historical blog? Well, my next novella, Simple Treasures, takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland during Hogmanay and so I thought I’d share some information about the holiday.

Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year. In Edinburgh, it has become a major event over the years and often sells out early. It includes a Ferris wheel, stalls selling knickknacks and food, a skating rink, colored lights, the Torchlight Procession, and lots of live music as people ring in the New Year. And of course, there are fireworks and the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne while holding hands with the people close to you…or the strangers who happen to be partying right next to you.

The Torchlight Procession, which takes place on December 30th, is a version of the Up Helly Aa Fire usually associated with the Shetland. Originally, the event began in the 1880s to mark the end of the Yule season. It grew out of the older tradition of tar barreling, where young men would drag tarred barrels through the streets and raise hell. Gradually it became more civilized, with people walking through the streets with torches blazing. At the end of the walk, everyone would throw their torches into a replica of a Viking ship. For more information on the festival, visit www.uphellyaa.org.

Today, the Torchlight Procession begins on the Royal Mile where thousands of people line up behind bagpipers to carry lit torches through the streets of Edinburgh up to Calton Hill. Once at the top, people watch while a replica of a Viking ship burns in the distance, music plays and then fireworks signal the end of the procession. See? Not much has changed in the last 135 years. 

On the last day of the year, there is much music, dancing and drinking throughout the streets of Edinburgh. Surprisingly, even with an average of over a quarter million people, it never really feels crowded.

One holiday event that has always interested me is First-Footing. This event is popular in Scotland and northern England. Once the New Year has rung in, a dark haired man walks through the front door. This usually means those who live there will have good luck. The man usually brings gifts, such as coins (for financial success), bread (for food), salt (for flavor), coal (for warmth), or whisky (for good cheer). In some places, a fair-haired man or a female first through the door is considered unlucky!

Thank you to Eliza for allowing me to join you all today! I’ve had fun sharing my favorite holiday traditions with you.


Author Bio:

Alexa Bourne is a teacher by day and a romantic suspense writer by nights, weekends, and all school holidays. She also teaches online classes for writers throughout the year. She is thrilled to be writing for Decadent Publishing and to have the chance to share her love of Great Britain with readers everywhere.

When she's not concocting sinister plots and steamy love scenes or traveling and exploring new cultures, Alexa spends her time reading, watching brainless TV and thinking about exercising. She loves to interact with readers, so visit her web page, hang out at her blog, follow her on Twitter or drop her a note at Alexa@alexabourne.com!

Book Blurb:

Coming soon...

Take-charge bodyguard Colin Munro believes working for the International Protective Network will be the perfect occupation for him. Unfortunately, his trial assignment is protecting a woman who has no intention of blindly following orders. Aye, he’ll bring the bonnie lass in line because there’s no way he’ll allow her to ruin his chance of securing his dream job.

Physically and emotionally scarred during her stint as a U.S. soldier, Joanna Grainger wants nothing more than to enjoy life. New Year's Eve in Edinburgh marks the beginning of her transformation. But when she witnesses a crime no one believes occurred, her plans come to a screeching halt. To make matters worse, her sexy but headstrong bodyguard has no compassion for her or the victim.

As danger hunts them during one of the busiest time of the year, Joanna must convince Colin she's a worthy partner. But first, can she convince herself?


Joanna bolted upright. Darkness wrapped her in its hideous embrace. And silence reigned. Her heart raced. She flattened her hands on the mattress beneath her.

Mattress. Bed. Colin’s hotel room.

Rustling sounds came from the floor. The bedside lamp flickered on. Colin propped himself up, one knee bent and an arm dangling over it. He squinted against the brightness. “Are you all right?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.” She brushed her fingers under her eyes.

“Don’t be daft, lass.”

“I had a bad dream.” She smoothed her hair back off her face. Moisture beaded at her temples.

“Here we call it a nightmare.” He smiled, and at once she relaxed her shoulders.

“Americans do, too.” After another deep breath, she said, “I’ll be all right.” Once her heart rate slowed to normal. With her forearm, she wiped perspiration from her forehead.

He stood, padded into the bathroom, and ran the faucet. When he returned, he sat beside her, tucked his finger under her chin, and pressed the cloth to her cheek. The cool moisture soothed her burning skin.

She reached up and covered his hand with hers. “I can do that.”

“I know.” He brushed her fingers away. “But you’ll not.”

After a few seconds, he moved the wet towel across her forehead and to her other cheek.
When he reached her neck, she sighed and closed her eyes for a few valuable seconds.
“Thank you.”

His gentle caress reminded her how much she’d missed simple comfort…from anyone.

“You’re welcome.” The cloth soon disappeared. “Now, will you tell me what you dreamed about?”

“Mark Rawlings. I dreamed I was back in the train car and he was bleeding out on the floor. The guy with him faded into the background, but I could see the man’s hands and lips moving. I couldn’t hear anything, though. Then somebody jabbed me with something, and my blood drained out of my body, but there was nothing I could do. The guy standing stayed in front of me. There was another voice, but the words were garbled.”

“Did you see anyone else?”

“No, but at the end I wasn’t paying attention. I was losing consciousness.” She tilted her head to one side and into her palm. “Colin, what am I going to do if we don’t find the professor’s attacker soon?”

We’ll take it one day at a time.” Strong, confident, able to leap tall buildings and all…even in the middle of the night.

Read it! Amazon / Barnes and Noble

Twitter: @AlexaBourne


Jennifer Page(JC) said...

The torchlight procession is something I would love to partake in!! Personally, I am starting to see the Novella benefits in our fast-paced lifestyles...never time to read and write....ugh...

Exciting excerpt and thank-you!!
JC Page

Alexa Bourne said...

Jennifer, if you ever get the chance you should DEFINITELY participate! It was magical!