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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

December 31, 2010

How times do change …

evelyn @ 9:10 pm

New Year is nearly upon us and, to everyone’s relief, the snow is disappearing as the thaw sets in. And, thank goodness, no church music is needed until Sunday 2 January.

How many of us can recall the time when New Year’s Day was a Holiday of Obligation? Those were the hard days. If I remember rightly, the English church was the first to show a bit of compassion and remove the obligation, although I can’t remember exactly when this happened. The Catholic Church in Scotland, however, continued for some time to insist that its members should drag their hangovers to Mass on the first morning of every year (no evening Mass in those days, of course). It was just sheer vindictiveness, people said.

In my student days in Glasgow in the sixties, a lot of us found a way round the problem. We would party through the night, finishing up at the nearest church for 7 am, or if we had really been going strong, 8 am Mass. The priest would come out, look at the packed, swaying and often somnolent congregation, shrug his shoulders and begin Mass. On one occasion, I remember, he even congratulated us at the end on our good behaviour. There had been no singing, shouting or dancing, he noted.

Those were the days indeed. I couldn’t do it now. A quiet celebration with the family is just ideal.

Happy New Year when it comes, everyone!


  1. Curious to know what lay behind this holiday of obligation which seems to have been particularly harsh on Scottish Catholics who naturally wished to indulge in another birthright, Hogmanay revels, I turned to Monsignor Sullivan’s authoritative Externals of the Catholic Church (1955) where, on page 176, he wrote: ‘The first day of January is the feast of our Lord’s circumcision, for which the Jewish law exacted the administration of this solemn rite to fall on the eighth day after the birth; and, happening to fall on the first day of the new year, it was developed into a great Christian festival, partly because it helped to wean newly converted nations from various idolatrous and pagan practices which were observed in many countries on that day.’

    Stands pagan Scotland where it did? A Guid New Year to yin an’ a’!

    Comment by Clio (the Muse of History, not the Renault car) — January 1, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

  2. Wow! Thanks, Clio, that’s the most intellectual comment this blog has ever had. And you’re right, too – I seem to remember being told by some finger-wagging priest or teacher that the obligation was deliberately retained to try to keep us wicked Scots from getting drunk!

    (And I never knew Renault named their car after one of the Muses!)

    Comment by evelyn — January 2, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

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