Winter Blogfest: Fiona McGier

In the US, we love Christmas.  In Scotland, they prefer Hogmanay.

 As a child, I had no idea that others found my dad hard to understand.  He spoke perfectly understandable English to me.  Now his best friend Angus, who had grown up with him in Glesga (Glasgow to you), was hard to understand at times.  And inexplicably, Angus’ kids thought their dad was easy to understand, but “Uncle John”, my dad, had a wee bit of a brogue.  The real joke was that to other people, both of them were unintelligible, especially after a few beers.

Mom made a huge deal out of Christmas in our house.  She’d grown up 8 of 10 in Chicago in a very poor Polish family during the Depression, with no toys or even clothes that hadn’t been handed down many times.  She made up for her early deprivation by filling the space under our Christmas tree, the spaces all around it, and much of the living room furniture with toys for my brother and me.  My father would shake his head in bemusement, knowing that she’d ration the groceries for weeks as she paid for all of it, but also knowing that he couldn’t deny that she enjoyed watching us open everything with a child-like delight. Our pleasure made her happy.

DadBut Christmas was never a big deal to Dad because he’d been born in Scotland. He told us as we listened with pity in our hearts for the poor child he’d been, that there were never any gifts at Christmas. But he hadn’t minded because the bigger and more important holiday was Hogmanay. As I got older, I asked lots of questions about this holiday that meant so much to him.  We always had Scottish foods for New Year’s Eve: hot pies, sausage rolls, and bridies, all bought at the local Gaelic imports store. Dad said for the non-drinkers there should be ginger beer (similar to ginger ale but more flavor).  And at midnight, Dad would have another wee dram of Scotch (or as he called it, “mother’s milk”), and he’d make a toast.

Here’s tae us

wuz lak us.

Damn the yens that

doesnae lak us.

Translation? Here’s to us, and all of those who are like us (related, or even just Scottish). Damn everyone else who doesn’t like us (unrelated or not lucky enough to be Scottish.)

Then he’d put on the bagpipe music and say:

Pity the man who hears the pipes

And wasnae born in Scotland.

 Dad said his favorite part of the celebrating happened the next day, on Hogmanay, or New Year’s Day. Tradition says that in order to have luck all throughout the year, the first person over your threshold must be a tall man with dark hair, who carries something to drink (preferably alcoholic), something to eat (usually shortbread), and a lump of coal so you’ll have heat and be able to cook all year. Seems my dad had dark hair when he was young, though I don’t really remember that because he went grey early.  But in his youth (he came to the USA when he was 21, after his compulsory 2 years in the British Army), he’d head out to the nearest pubs as soon as he’d finished his morning tea.  There’d be lines of people waiting out in front of all of them…blond and red-headed people, along with brunette women.  They’d call him over with a joyous shout, shove him to the front of the line, and the pub owner would gladly open the door for him, with his first drink on the house.  He’d finish that one, then head out looking for another pub with a line out front.  What a glorious way to spend the first day of the year, he’d say! Happy Hogmanay indeed!

So though me faither ne’er wore the kilt, still he was as Scottish as they come, and he always wore a tam, or as he called it, “A bunnet with a touree (pom-pom) on top”. And when he was ensconced in an assisted living home, as he put it, “busy dying from his cancer”, one of my sons wore a kilt when we went to share the Thanksgiving feast with him and Mom. Dad kept exclaiming to everyone around him, “See that lad o’er there?  The one with the long hair and the kiltie?  That’s mu grandson!”

Now I hope you’ll understand why I don’t write Highlander romances.  Hell, I can’t even read them!  That accent doesn’t say to me, “Hot, sexy man.” It says, “Hi Dad!”

********

fiona mcgier AnalysisOfLove coverI loved being a part of Mom’s big family when I was growing up with lots of aunts and uncles and 22 cousins. When I started writing my Reyes Family Romances, some of my readers wondered how I could write so convincingly about the members of a large, closely-knit Hispanic family.  The answer is that I was a part of an immigrant family: Mom’s.  Though they were all born here, they spoke Polish at home before learning English in school. They were fiercely devoted to family and to the country their parents had sacrificed to become citizens of, and they were proud to be Americans. Large immigrant families have a lot in common, no matter what nationality they are.

There are 6 books in the Reyes Family Romances. The 4th book, Prescription For Love, is a free download: http://www.smashwords.com/b/18367

Leave a comment below telling me about some of the cultural traditions you grew up with that are from another country. I’ll choose a winner on Saturday December 28, and that reader will get to choose which of the other 5 Reyes Family Romances she’d like to read. I have paperbacks of some of them, but if you prefer eBooks, the winner can choose any of them.

Find out more about all of my books at: http://www.fionamcgier.com, where the first page of my website is my blog. You can find excerpts, reviews, and links to interviews.

All of my books are available through my publishers and at the usual places, like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All-Romances eBooks, and Coffetime Romances.

 

 

Comments

  1. Dawn Staniszeski says:

    Wow..even with what you didn’t have, it seems like you had a lot! We have no real traditions in our family Christmas, except for some recipes of cookies and cakes from my Grandmother. And we didn’t have any family (Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles or Cousins) around as we lived far away from them all. So our special holidays were not so festive. Have a Merry Christmas!

  2. Dawn, my husband’s family is 100% Polish, and his aunts and uncles sang carols in Polish, celebrated for days around Christmas, and ate traditional meals. Mom only learned a couple of recipes from Busia, and I make both of them when I miss her. She thought of herself as American. But Dad missed “the ol’ country”, and made sure we learned how he’d grown up.

    However, with both of them gone now, I can say with conviction that though Mom would have loved my smutty romance novels (she read them by the bagful, trading with her sisters), Dad would be mortified! Just another reason I’ll ne’er be writing about a Highlander! (grin)

  3. Marika Weber says:

    My maternal grandmother was Ukranian so we had beet soup, potato dumplings and read from her prayer book.

    My paternal side was Indian, Scottish and Irish. My grandmother would bake and make candy. We didn’t do any of the customs. Its a long story…

    Thanks for sharing. Makes me miss my beet soup this year.

    Marika Weber
    maw1725@gmail.com

    • Beet soup, eh? Borscht? I’ve never had it, though I really like beets. Mom used to love Busia’s chanina (sp?), which is duck blood soup. I thought it was so gross I made her wash the pot herself, though I did all of the dishes!

  4. Don’t have to share

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  5. Dawn, you’re the winner! Please look over the Reyes Romances at my website and let me know which one you’d like to read, and if you’d prefer an eBook or a signed paperback. Congrats! And thanks for reading!

  6. Dawn Staniszeski says:

    Thank you. A paperback of anyone of them. Looking forward to reading. I need a new good book to read! Excited now!!!

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