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Burghead Burning of the Clavie

Burghead Burning of the Clavie
Reading Time: 2 minutes

On the first day of the Julian calendar, 11th January, the Burning of the Clavie takes place, this fire festival is unique to Burghead and greets in the New Year.

In the small town of Burghead around 8 miles North West of Elgin an age old tradition continues to this day.

When the Gregorian calendar was introduced people rioted demanding back their extra 11 days from the Julian calendar, however in Burghead they decided to have the best of both worlds and celebrated New Year twice, on the 1st and 11th January.

Alex Main, Director of Highland Office Equipment once again took part in this year’s celebration.  Alex says I took over from my father, so the tradition has been in the family for about 50 years. I have been carrying the Clavie since I was 15 (now 41) and I would hope that one day my son will be able to take over from me (Jamie who is 3). It was a fantastic night with about 4,000 people coming to watch.  It was a dry and windy night which is near perfect conditions.

The Clavie is a half barrel filled with tar and wood shavings and on the night the clavie (Latin clavus – nail) is nailed to a post and then it is taken to the home of one of the town’s oldest residents (the provost) who lights the Clavie with peat from his own fire.

The Clavie is then led by The Clavie King, throughout the town before arriving at its final destination on the Doorie Hill on the ramparts of an ancient fort, where more fuel is added and then it is allowed to burn out and fall down the hill, with the burning embers eagerly gathered by locals, the embers are said to bring luck for the coming year.


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