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For as long as people here can remember, islanders here have celebrated the New Year on January 12, but the pandemic has put an end to the old ways – for now, at least.

Donald MacLean, 59, remembers Oidhche Challuinn celebrations as a young boy and said it was a big night on the island. It will be again, once again, he said.

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Mr MacLean added: ‘It will be restarted for next year and the children who are here will bring it back. They will be encouraged to do so.

Berneray in the Outer Hebrides, where the New Year is traditionally celebrated on January 12. PIC: Creative Commons/Jkirriemuir

On the night of January 12, children and young people dressed up to visit each of the approximately 60 houses on the island, with the group arriving at each house together.

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As has always been the case, the same Gaelic verse – or the Duan – is recited on arrival to request even small offerings from the householder.

After receiving money or food, a second verse is said on leaving, to wish good luck to the householder.

Berneray, which sits off North Uist and has a population of around 130, is one of the last places in Scotland to observe the Old New Year.

When the old Julian calendar was abolished in the 18th century and 11 days were lost with the introduction of the new Gregorian calendar, some decided to observe the original celebratory times, with New Year’s Day being pushed back to January 12.

In Berneray, the old customs have endured and the traditions surrounding the festival have changed little, although girls and young women now participate.

While Mr MacLean, president of the Berneray Historical Society, remembers driving for miles to reach each house, leaving his home around 4.30pm and arriving at the last around 10pm, cars are more commonly used to transport young people.

The children traditionally gathered at the last family home for a hot meal and a small party before heading home in the dark. In more modern times, the late night party is held at the communal hall of Borve, where all treats are shared equally. The children have been known to have brought home around £60 each in recent times.

Mr MacLean said he remembered girls joining in the celebrations when older children started leaving Berneray for Harris High School in the 1960s, leaving far fewer children on the island on January 12.

Hogmanay is still celebrated on December 31 in Berneray, which is now connected to North Uist by a causeway.

Mr MacLean said: ‘The thing we don’t celebrate here is Halloween. The children rather celebrate the old New Year. We want to keep the traditions alive. Until a few years ago we were an island and it was easier to do things and keep them locally.

“More people have moved to the island and although they don’t speak Gaelic they are learning the verse very quickly and it’s great to see them taking it into homes. I think even families who have moved here like to continue seeing the old traditions.”

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