It has been a while since out last Scotia News. This was due to the fact that our editor has been running around in Scotland instead of attending to duties here. Hopefully, the next issue will come out properly.





  The RSCDS New York Branch is holding a Benefit Dance for UNICEF© at the United Nations General Assembly Lobby on June 26, 2004 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. All are welcome to come to watch but as there will be no teaching on the floor only experienced dancers may participate in the dance. Anyone wanting the program of dances for the day may look on our website: Even if one doesn't do Scottish Country dancing we would appreciate any contributions made out to RSCDS New York Branch which will be added to our contributions. We have been dancing at the UN for UNICEF since 1989 when the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society asked all of its Branches to do something for charity on the same day all over the world and doing the same dances. It was called "REEL-AID" We chose UNICEF and have been doing so ever since for the last 15 years.

  Contributed by Sally Freedman, Corresponding Secretary, RSCDS New York Branch






  Halloween is an old holiday, renamed, but none the less holding many of its "pagan" characteristics. In Scotland, the new year began at Halloween, rather than at the start of January. Why is Halloween when it is and what is it all about?

  For many peoples in the world, holidays are tied to specific astronomical events which mark the passage of time throughout the year. A day, of course refers to the period of time it takes for the Earth to rotate once on its axis. In effect, this is the time it takes for the sun to return to the same place it was in the sky. If we use sunrise as that point, then it is the time it takes from one sunrise to the next.

  Years are the time it takes for the Earth to make one revolution about the sun. This is harder to see in some ways. If you go out at night and you look to the east as the sun sets in the west, you might notice a certain star is rising just as the sun is setting. As the year progresses, each night that star is slightly higher in the sky at sunset. The next time the star is rising just as the sun sets will be one year later.

  Interestingly enough, the sun also appears to move along the horizon from north to south and back again in the course of a year. AT the time of the shortest day of the year (about December 21, the sun rises as far south of east as it ever does. This is called the winter solstice. As the year progresses, the sun appears to move further and further north each day, until on or about March 21st it rises due east and we are at the vernal equinox - that time of year when there is an equal amount of daylight and darkness, About three months later on or about June 21st, the sun has moved to its furthest north position - the summer solstice, when we have the longest day of the year. After that the sun starts to move south again, rising due east (another solstice - this time the autumnal solstice) on or about September 21.

  These are often important points in the calendar for people. It is however, possible to divide these for quarters of the year in half. These four points fall between the equinoxes and the solstices.

Approximate Date Astronomical Event Half way point
December 21 Winter solstice  
February 1 Candlemas Imbolg Ground Hog Day
March 21 Vernal equinox  
May 1 May Day Beltine; Walopurgis Nacht
June 21 Summer solstice  
August 8 Lammas Lugnasad
Sept.21 Autumnal equinox  
Oct. 31 Martinmas Samhain (Halloween)

  The four holidays, Imbolg, Beltine, Lugnasad and Samhain are the four points roughly halfway between the solstices and the quinoxes which were major holidays in Celtic countries. When Christianity appeared, there was an attempt to "stamp out" the sacred days of the religious calendar by imposing new holidays on top of the old ones. Samhain was particularly strong and a new holiday "All Hallows Day" November 1, was created so that the evening prior to that would be a "sacred evening" or "hallow evening" which gradually became "Halloween".

  The year was divided into to main sections - from Samhain to Beltain and from Beltain to Samhain. This division of the world into two great periods is not uncommon and can be found in many parts of the world. The time of change is often dangerous (as are most moments when change occurs) and it was thought that these two periods were points in time when the supernatural world and the mundane world were closely enough connected that there was possible movement from one to the other.

  People disguised themselves so as be left alone by the spirits that might enter, in those hopes that they would be taken for one of their own. These "disguised" people or "guisers" become the forerunners of contemporary Halloween costumes.