31st October - Hop-tu-Naa, Isle of Man
written by Anne Newman 17th November 2019 -additions 2023
Hop-tu-Naa is an ancient festival celebrated on the Isle of Man on 31st October, the date of the Celtic New Year's Eve (Oie Houney), also called Hollantide Eve.
The name is commonly thought to be derived from the Manx Gaelic 'shogh ta'n Oie', which translates as 'this is the night.' The Scots' Hogmanay is of the same origin.
More information is shared at Visit Isle of Man :
A Manx superstition included filling your mouth with water, holding a pinch of salt in each hand and listening at a neighbour’s door to their conversation; the first name mentioned was supposedly the name of your future husband.
Old customs included:
- Setting fire to gorse to ward off bad faeries
- Predicting the future via Soddag Valloo (a ‘dumb cake’ girls made and ate which supposedly showed signs of their future husbands)
- Going around the houses signing rhymes and asking for rewards
Children and Hop-Tu-Naa
On Hop-Tu-Naa night, for the last 100 years or so, children have carried out the ritual - echoed by Halloween - of going from door to door, sometimes in ghoulish costumes, singing traditional songs (see Hop-tu-Naa song for regional variations) and asking for sweets or small change. Instead of pumpkins, they carry hollowed-out turnips illuminated by a candle or torchlight. Turnips are also popularly used in Scotland, where the practice is called 'guising.'
In olden days, it was customary for children to hammer on people's doors with turnip stumps, or cabbages on sticks. Instead of sweets or money, they would have been given pieces of bonnag (a rich fruit cake or fruited bread), potatoes or herring to send them on their way.
There is a wonderful version of the Hop-tu-Naa song on YouTube... sung with much gusto and some great artwork by the children....
Who was Jinny the Witch?
One Hop-Tu-Naa song sung by children to this day includes references to 'Jinny the Witch', who may have been a real-life character.
Joney Lowney was a native of Braddan in the 18th Century who was believed to be a witch and consequently tried for witchcraft at Bishopscourt in 1715-1716. Amongst other crimes, she was accused of hindering the production of corn at Ballaughton Mill and mysteriously procuring fishes during a nocturnal disappearance. According to reports, she received a sentence of 14 days' imprisonment. She died in 1725 and is buried in Old Kirk Braddan churchyard.
Anne is sharing a series of events throughout the year - you can find them listed by clicking to the link Feast Days & Festivals