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Count down to Hogmanay

It is the last day of 2012, and while Christmas in North America is a month long buildup of festivities, reflecting a melting pot of religious, cultural and secular traditions, New Years is more of an after thought, one last party before getting back to business. In Scotland however, Christmas is a low key celebration with a build up to New Years, called Hogmanay, the biggest party of the year. Since the Crawleys visit their scottish relatives in the S3 Christmas episode I though it fitting to pay tribute to the great feast.

In the late 1500s, the Scottish Reformation abolished Christmas, which lasted for 400 hundred years. Most Scots had to work on Christmas Day until the 1960s. In the early 1600s, they changed the date of New Year’s from March 25 to January 1, and began celebrating Hogmanay. Christmas is still celebrated with family as a low key affair, but then the Scots pull out all the stops for a two day holiday.

Throughout Scotland Hogmanay is filled with all kinds of festivals, parties, bonfires and, more recently, fireworks. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival lasts for days and includes one of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the world.

Some of the Scottish traditions have become part of our own New Year’s Eve celebrations. We sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight and make New Year’s resolutions, both invented by the Scots.

Downton Abbey Christmas Episode- A Journey to the Highlands

The Season 3 Christmas episode was broadcast to UK viewers on Christmas Day.  Unlike the previous Christmas special, it was not set at Christmas time.  The episode follows the Crawleys on a visit to the Scottish Highlands to visit their cousin “Shrimpie”, the Marquess of Flintshire.  The party left most of Downton’s servants behind, who made merry back in Yorkshire at a fair.  I am still digesting all the events that occur in the two hour episode and I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the common thread appears to be that many characters see happiness just beyond their reach.  It definitely has a different feel from last year’s Christmas episode, but life moves on whether we wish it to or not.

Wednesdays: Downton Day in Canada

I am pleased to report that Vision TV will be broadcasting Downton episodes, right from the beginning (S1-S3) , starting January 2nd.  I am also thrilled to have been invited to write a weekly column, called Downton Dish for the Vision TV website.  Check out my interview introducing the series.

Season 3 Launch in Vermont

Most Downton American fans know that Season 3 of Downton Abbey will be broadcast on PBS, starting Sunday January 6th. Vermont Public Television has been planning a fabulous weekend to celebrate all things Downton and I am getting excited about the trip.  I will share photos from the event next week.

Auld Man’s Milk

enjoy a cup of Auld Man's Milk with my Downton Abbey cookies

Enjoy a cup of Auld Man’s Milk with Downton Abbey cookies, two of 220 recipes in my new cookbook

There are a number of traditional recipes which are enjoyed on Hogmanay. Shortbread is favorite as well as Black bun (recipe is in my cookbook).  Auld Man’s Milk is also enjoyed by the Scots on Hogmanay. It was brought to North America in the 17th century by colonists and adapted to make eggnog.

Serves 6


  • 6 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup rum, whisky or brandy
  • Nutmeg, freshly grated to garnish


  1. Beat yolks and whites separately. Add the sugar to the egg yolks, whisk in the milk, then add the alcohol.
  2. Gently mix in the whipped whites. Grate nutmeg and serve in small glasses.
  3. Ensure that the drink is kept cold.

Traditional Toasts:

  • Lang may yer lum reek (long may your chimney smoke) wishing wealth to keep enough coal burning in your fireplace to keep warm, and the home fires burning.
  • A guid New Year to ane an’ a’ and mony may ye see, a wish for a good New Year to one and all.

Entertain the Downton way

Start your year off right with a collection of Downton Abbey recipes to bring a touch of elegance to your own Abbey.  For only $7.95 you get 220 recipes including famous Downton dishes from Seasons 1-3.

To Order:

You can download my book by clicking on the photo of the book cover in the right margin, or you can order directly from Amazon.