Burning the clavie – an ancient Scottish tradition

So what did we do on Monday night – we wandered around the streets of a small Scottish town with hundreds of people following a barrel full of burning wood!!  Do you think the cold is getting to us?


It was a perfectly sensible thing to be doing and is done to welcome in the new year –   January 11th is new years eve in the Julian calendar which was changed to the Gregorian calendar, which we now use, in the 1700’s. 

I’ve done a few searches and it seems no one seems to know where the tradition of burning the clavie originally comes from, so it could be Celtic, Pagan, or Roman – it’s just a good excuse to have a fun evening and bring people together.

The clavie is a wooden barrel full of wooden staves and kindling that is lit and carried around the town of Burghead on the Moray firth in Scotland.  It is lit at 6pm and after a speech and lots of cheering it is then hoisted onto the shoulders of the designated carriers and walked around the streets.  Along the way they stop and give bits of the burning wood to businesses and households which is good luck for the coming year.

It’s a really impressive sight – a burning barrell showering sparks into the night air, and people rushing along beside the flames as it goes around the town.  Reassuringly there were firemen and paramedics mixed in with the crowd, but thankfully they didn’t need them. The men carrying the clavie were dressed appropriately in clothes that would protect them from the falling embers.

The final resting spot for the clavie is Doorie Hill where there are the remnants of an ancient fort – the clavie is fixed to its spot and then doused with more fuel which makes it a spectacular sight, and I couldn’t believe how close people were standing to it.  It’s then left to burn down and people collect the remnants for good luck.

Atmospheric night shot of the graveyard

So that was the burning of the clavie in Burghead – Mark it in your diary for next year.

I thought you might like this pretty shot that I took of the ice on our car windscreen one morning – it looks almost like feathers laid across the glass.

Hope you’ve enjoyed a look at a fabulous ancient tradition – I’m sure we’ll find more in the years to come.

Until next time be good, stay safe, and explore some of your own local customs.

Pamela and Ken
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P.S: To finish I wanted to share the below picture – due to the brats (Cookie and Muffin) we often frequent the local Pets at Home to spoil them with new toys and beds.  In the store there are a group of sparrows that live there and I love this shot of them sitting on the wild birds and cat food sign as it’s a little bit ironic.


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