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The Isle of Man celebrates Hop-tu-Naa

A turnip is more traditional for Manx Hop-tu-Naa'ers to carve on October 31st. Photo: Culture Vannin

Whilst most would associate October 31st with Halloween, for the Isle of Man it's a different day altogether.

Hop-tu-Naa pre-dates the renowned Halloween, coming before Christianity was known on-island and is considered the original New Year.

'Oie Houney', or 'November Eve', is regarded as the oldest of Manx traditions, with residents still choosing to carve turnips ('moots') rather than pumpkins.

The words Hop tu Naa are said to be a corruption of Shoh ta’n Oie (‘this is the night’ in Manx Gaelic) and it’s believed that they have the same origin as the more universally recognised Scottish expression ‘Hogmanay’. There’s no doubting the clear parallels of celebration amongst the population of Scotland, the north of England and the Isle of Man which emerge from the many testimonials of researchers and scholars in the folklore arena.

– Valerie Caine, via www.transceltic.com

Traditions such as singing the official 'Hop-tu-Naa' song, making turnip lanterns, dancing, cooking 'mrastyr' (potatoes, parsnips and fish mashed up with butter) and leaving left overs for the fairies outside still continue today.

The updated version of the song goes as follows:

Hop-tu-Naa My mother's gone away And she won't be back until the morning Jinny the Witch flew over the house To fetch the stick to lather the mouse Hop-tu-Naa My mother's gone away And she won't be back until the morning Hop-tu-Naa, Traa-la-laa

Jinny the Witch

Joney Lowney (or Lewney) is believed to have lived in the parish of Braddan.

Her relative, Hampton Creer, researched his family history, and after looking through many old documents from the 17th and 18th centuries concluded that he had found the name of the woman whom he considered to be Jinny the Witch.

She was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to 14 days imprisonment, fined £3 and ordered to stand at the four market crosses, dressed in sackcloth.

Slieau Whallian in St John's was a hill which those deemed to be witches were rolled down in a barrel full of nails. Credit: isleofman.com

A sinister part of Manx history includes Slieau Whallian, St John's, where a woman accused of being a witch would be "put into a barrel, with sharp iron spikes inserted round the interior, pointing inwards, and thus, by the weight of herself and the apparatus, allowed to roll from the top of the hill to the bottom; and many other persons of both sexes suffered here in a similar manner."

It is said that a man who was accused of murder, and condemned to suffer death on this hill, pleaded his innocence of the crime laid to his charge, and told his accusers that if he was not guilty, a thorn-tree would grow at his head where he was buried, and that a well or spring of water would lie found at his feet, which well and thorn-tree are said to be seen to this day. And, moreover, he warned his persecutors, that as sure as he suffered wrongfully, he would continue to frequent and trouble the locality so long as grass continued to grow, or water to flow; and being faithful to his word, he continued to annoy and terrify the neighbourhood in succeeding ages.

– Jenkinsons's Practical Guide to the Isle of Man (1874), via www.isleofman.com

Whichever day you consider it, October 31st continues to be the oldest continuously-existing tradition for Manxies.

To find out more about Hop-tu-Naa, visit Culture Vannin's website.