Christmas is almost here and the conversation at the workshop has turned to festive traditions and the moments that really signify this time of year.

While we were chatting three things came up again and again so we thought we’d share our Orcadian traditions with you:

The winter solstice

In the summer we are lucky to have some very long days as the sun rises at around 4am and doesn’t set till after 10pm.

In the winter we pay for our good fortune as the months are really rather dark with December the 21st being the shortest day of the year when the sun rises after 9am and is back in bed as early as 3.30pm.

winter solstice

If there are clouds around at this time of year then we can spend a few days in darkness.

As dreich as this sounds it really is an indicator that Christmas is just around the corner and the lights in every window make dark days a little bit more exciting.

The ba’
If you’ve never heard of The ba’ before then it might sound a bit strange but this has been a well known custom in Orkney since the 1800s.

The ba’ is a competition between two teams, the Uppies and the Doonies, that fight for ownership of a leather ball.

The ba'

The teams both have a goal and when the game begins chaos descends as hundreds of men struggle to ensure that their team wins.

As you can imagine this is a fantastic spectator sport but an ability to get out of the way quickly is essential!

New Year’s Eve

Once we’re over the celebrations of Christmas there is another wonderful Scottish tradition to look forward to.

Every year on the 31st of December big crowds gather in both Kirkwall and Stromness to toast the New Year.

New year at St. Magnus Cathedral

In Kirkwall we know that 12 o’clock has arrived from the clock of St. Magnus Cathedral while in Stromness the ships’ whistles in the harbour signal the arrival of the next year.

After that it’s time to go first footing and celebrate in the traditional style.

For more wonderful Orcadian traditions have a read of our blog.