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Hop-tu-Naa is a Celtic festival celebrated in the Isle of Man on 31 October. Predating Halloween, it is the celebration of the original New Year's Eve (Oie Houney).


Historically Hop-tu-Naa has been considered to be the Celtic New Year, marking the end of the summer and the beginning of winter. It was a time when farmers would celebrate a safely gathered harvest and all preparations completed for the long winter ahead.

The etymology of 'Hop-tu-naa' is uncertain, some sources speculating that it comes from Manx Gaelic Shogh ta'n Oie, meaning "this is the night",[1] though there are a number of origins suggested for the similar Hogmanay, which is the Scottish New Year.


Turnip lanterns

For modern Hop-tu-Naa, children dress up and go from house to house with the hope of being given sweets or money, as elsewhere. However, the children carry carved "turnip" lanterns (actually swedes, which are known as turnips or moots by the Manx) rather than pumpkins and sing Hop-tu-naa songs. A proper Hop-tu-Naa lantern will be a hollowed out turnip the size of a man's head, with flickering eyes and jagged mouth illuminated from within by a candle.[2] In older times, children would have also brought the stumps of turnips with them and batter the doors of those who refused to give them any money, in an ancient form of trick or treat. This practice appears to have died out.


Some of the older customs are similar to those now attached to the January new year. It was a time for prophesying, weather prediction and fortune-telling. Last thing at night, the ashes of a fire were smoothed out on the hearth to receive the imprint of a foot. If, next morning, the track pointed towards the door, someone in the house would die, but if the footprint pointed inward, it indicated a birth.

A cake was made which was called Soddag Valloo or Dumb Cake, because it was made and eaten in silence. Young women and girls all had a hand in baking it on the red embers of the hearth, first helping to mix the ingredients, flour, eggs, eggshells, soot and salt, and kneading the dough. The cake was divided up and eaten in silence and, still without speaking, all who had eaten it went to bed, walking backwards, expecting and hoping to see their future husband in a dream or vision. The future husband was expected to appear in the dream and offer a drink of water.

Another means of divination was to steal a salt herring from a neighbour, roast it over the fire, eat it in silence and retire to bed.

Manx National Heritage sponsors annual events in celebration at various locations.[3] The National Folk Museum at Cregneash hosts an event to teach the tradition Hop-tu-Naa song. Participants can carve turnips which they may take to other Hop-Tu-Naa venues.[4]


The Hop-tu-Naa Song

Hop-tu-Naa in Manx Hop-tu-Naa in English
Shoh shenn oie Houiney; Hop-tu-naa This is old Sauin night; Hop-tu-naa
T'an eayst soilshean; Trol-la-laa.[1] The moon shines bright; Trol-la-laa.
Kellagh ny kiarkyn; Hop-tu-naa. Cock of the hens; Hop-tu-naa
Shibber ny gauin; Trol-la-laa. Supper of the heifer; Trol-la-laa.
'Cre'n gauin marr mayd ? Hop-tu-naa. Which heifer shall we kill? Hop-tu-naa
Yn gauin veg vreac. Trol-la-laa. The little speckled heifer. Trol-la-laa.
Yn chione kerroo, Hop-tu-naa. The fore-quarter, Hop-tu-naa
Ver mayd 'sy phot diu; Trol-la-laa. We'll put in the pot for you. Trol-la-laa.
Yn kerroo veg cooyl, Hop-tu-naa. The little hind quarter, Hop-tu-naa
Cur dooin, cur dooin. Trol-la-laa. Give to us, give to us. Trol-la-laa.
Hayst mee yn anvroie, Hop-tu-naa. I tasted the broth, Hop-tu-naa
Scoald mee my hengey, Trol-la-laa. I scalded my tongue, Trol-la-laa.
Ro'e mee gys y chibber, Hop-tu-naa. I ran to the well, Hop-tu-naa
As diu mee my haie, Trol-la-laa. And drank my fill; Trol-la-laa.
Er my raad thie, Hop-tu-naa. On my way back, Hop-tu-naa
Veeit mee kayt-vuitsh; Trol-la-laa. I met a witch cat; Trol-la-laa.
Va yn chayt-scryssey, Hop-tu-naa. The cat began to grin, Hop-tu-naa
As ren mee roie ersooyl. Trol-la-laa. And I ran away. Trol-la-laa.
Cre'n raad ren oo roie Hop-tu-naa. Where did you run to? Hop-tu-naa
Roie mee gys Albin. Trol-la-laa. I ran to Scotland. Trol-la-laa.
Cred v'ad jannoo ayns shen ? Hop-til-naa What were they doing there? Hop-til-naa
Fuinney bonnagyn as rostey sthalgyn. Trol-la-laa. Baking bannocks and roasting collops. Trol-la-laa.
Hop-tu-naa, Trol-la-laa. Hop-tu-naa, Trol-la-laa


My ta shiu goll dy chur red erbee dooin, cur dooin tappee eh,
Ny vees mayd ersooyl liorish soilshey yn cayst
Hop-tu-naa, Trol-la-laa.


If you are going to give us anything, give it us soon,
Or we'll be away by the light of the moon.
Hop-tu-naa, Trol-la-laa.


Modern Hop-tu-Naa songs

Different versions of Hop-tu-naa songs were sung in different areas of the island.

"Jinnie the Witch" is a modern Manx English song,[1] which was sung around the Douglas area.

According to an article in the Manx Independent newspaper in October 2007, Jinny's real name was Joney Lowney. She lived in Braddan and was tried at Bishop's Court for witchcraft in 1715 and 1716. Her greatest "crime" was stopping the Ballaughton Corn Mill. She was sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment, fined £3 and made to stand at the four market crosses dressed in sackcloth.

A different account traces is to a children’s ball throwing rhyme from Gloucester, England, which was imported to the Island.[6]

The modern song goes as follows :

My mother's gone away
And she won't be back until the morning
Jinnie the Witch flew over the house
To fetch the stick to lather the mouse
My mother's gone away
And she won't be back until the morning
Hop-tu-Naa, Traa-la-laa[6]

In the West of the Island a longer version was sung, which is more closely related to the Manx version.

The following version dates from the 1930s – a similar version is recorded in A.W. Moore's "A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect" (1924) :

Hop-tu-naa! put in the pot
Hop-tu-naa! put in the pan
Hop-tu-naa! I burnt me throt (throat)
Hop-tu-naa! guess where I ran ?
Hop-tu-naa! I ran to the well
Hop-tu-naa! and drank my fill
Hop-tu-naa! and on the way back
Hop-tu-naa! I met a witch cat
Hop-tu-naa! the cat began to grin
Hop-tu-naa! and I began to run
Hop-tu-naa! I ran to Ronague
Hop-tu-naa! guess what I saw there ?
Hop-tu-naa! I saw an old woman
Hop-tu-naa! baking bonnags
Hop-tu-naa! roasting sconnags
Hop-tu-naa! I asked her for a bit
Hop-tu-naa! she gave me a bit
as big as me big toe
Hop-tu-naa! she dipped it in milk
Hop-tu-naa! she wrapped it in silk
Hop-tu-naa! Traa la lay!
If you're going to give us anything, give it to us soon
before we run away with the light of the moon !

The 1970s Southern version from Castletown includes the mention of the Witches Mill and the former house of Parliament

This is auld hollantide night, the moon shines clear and bright
Hop-tu-naa, traa-la-laa
Jinnie the witch jumped over the college to fetch the stick to stir the porridge
Hop-tu-naa, traa-la-laa
Castletown square is mighty bare, there isn't a statue that should have been there
Hop-tu-naa, traa-la-laa
The castle is grey, and Parliament gone, the harbour is quiet no smugglers run
Hop-tu-naa, traa-la-laa
when lights were turned out and no sweets were given, there was a further chorus:-
This is old hollantide night, the moon is shining bright
if you're going to bring us money
You better bring it quick
as we may start to sing again, and your neighbours will think you're thick
Hop-tu-naa, traa-la-laa
Jinnie the witch is over the mill if you don't give us something quick
she will come and get you.

See also