Scottish Cup of Friendship-The Quaich

Hello, and Happy New Year to you! I hope this first day of the bright, shiny new calendar year – holy shiitake, a new decade! – finds each of you well (and without too terrible a headache). 🙂

What sorts of celebrations did you engage in last night? Mr. C and I chose to ring in the year quietly at home, just us and our three doggies. Neither of us are big on crowds (though speaking for myself, I might be willing to put that sentiment aside if I ever have the chance to take part in one of the many Hogmanay festivals across Scotland. Stonehaven Fire Festival anyone?) Anyway, just because we stayed in doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great time. Mr. C made delicious Oysters Rockefeller, and we enjoyed a nice bottle of champagne while watching a bit of the Times Square celebration on television. Then we capped it off at midnight with a cwtch (the Welsh word for cuddle) and a whisky toast in our Scottish Cup of Friendship, or Quaich. A “kutch” and a “quake.” What more do you need to usher out the old and herald in the new?

So now that you have not one but two new vocabulary words to begin your year, I thought we would take a look at the latter of the two.

Quaich (pronounced “quake” with a slightly soft ‘k’ in the back of the throat); also known as the Scottish “Loving Cup” or Scottish “Cup of Friendship”

Originating in the Scottish Highlands and cherished by Scots for centuries, a Quaich is a shallow bowl with a handle on each side used for sharing a drink (typically whisky) with another. It has long been used as a form of hospitality to offer a welcoming drink to friends and visitors. It is also still commonplace to see them used in Scottish marriage and Christening ceremonies, at clan gatherings, and, of course, at Burns Night suppers.

A bottle of Balvenie whisky next to a pewter quaich, also known as a Scottish Cup of Friendship.

The tradition of offering someone a drink from a Quaich is symbolic of trust between the giver and the receiver. It was especially relevant in the early days of Scottish clan interactions when rivalries and aggression tended to be a little more, shall we say, intense. Because both parties are required to use two hands to hold the Quaich, neither would, therefore, have a free hand with which to draw a weapon!

The first Quaichs were fashioned from a single piece of wood, with the handles (lugs) sometimes made or adorned with silver. In the seventeenth century, metal Quaichs began to appear, made of pewter, silver, or brass. Today you can find all sorts of beautiful Quaichs on the market. In addition to their prevalence in Scottish shops, I have also seen them available online as well as at independent Celtic shops here in the States. We purchased ours the first time we visited Scotland, and though it now needs a bit of a shine-up, it has a special place of honor on our living room shelf.

Friends, as we venture forth into this new year, I want to extend to each one of you my own symbolic Cup of Friendship. May your 2020 be a year of good health, happiness, prosperity, and adventure.

Slàinte mhath!

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