Burning of the Clavie

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Burning the clavie is an ancient Scottish custom still observed at Burghead, a fishing village on the Moray Firth. The clavie is a collection of casks split in two, lighted as a bonfire in the evening of 11 January, i.e. New Year's Eve (in Scotland, Hogmanay) by the Julian Calendar. One of these casks is joined together again by a huge nail (Latin clavis; hence the term, it may also be from Scottish Gaelic cliabh, a basket used for holding combustibles). It is then filled with tar, lighted and carried flaming round the village and finally up to a headland upon which stands the ruins of an altar, locally called the Doorie. It here forms the nucleus of the bonfire, which is built up of split casks. When the burning tar-barrel falls in pieces, the people scramble to get a lighted piece with which to kindle the New Year's fire on their cottage hearth. The charcoal of the clavie is collected and put in pieces up the cottage chimneys, to keep spirits and witches from coming down.[1]


  1.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Clavie, Burning the". Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 469.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>