Hogmanay the Scots way!

New Year's Eve is celebrated all around the world and Scotland has a deep history associated with it. In Scotland it’s better known as ‘Hogmanay’. People from all over the world come to the capital, Edinburgh, as well as other cities and towns to celebrate ‘bringing in the bells!’

Hogmanay Traditional Celebrations 

There are many traditions that are still practised today including cleaning the whole house before midnight on 31st December. Nowadays this is really to prepare for visitors throughout the evening, including the 'First Foot'. Older generations and some younger ones who are keeping tradition alive go house to house after midnight to ‘First Foot’ their neighbours. ‘First footing’ (quite literally the ‘first foot’ in the house after midnight) is fairly common even to this day. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should be male, dark (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blonde strangers arriving on your doorstep meant big trouble) and should bring some coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky.

These days, however, whisky and shortbread are the usual offerings. Why these items though? It was believed that these items provided everyone in the house for the following year, enough to eat (bread), enough money (salt) warmth all year (coal). The whisky or more locally known dram, was simply to celebrate with a wee nip!

Often Scots will greet each other with the saying “Lang may yer lum reek” (a Hogmanay greeting, implying "May you never be without fuel for your fire!", but more literally translates to "Long may your chimney smoke!"
Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing the world famous Robert Burns poem written in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song' "For Auld Lang Syne". This has now become a popular practise all over the world at New Year events everywhere.

Fireworks, Parties, Torchlight Processions & Fire Ceremonies 


Photo: Chris Watt

Probably the most well know party in Scotland is the street party in Edinburgh, where visitors from all over the world gather along Princes Street in Edinburgh with spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle. The magical Firework display and torchlight procession in Edinburgh attracts thousands of revellers.

Others choose to go to more formal events like Ceilidhs which involves traditional Scottish music and dance. Getting all dressed up in your finest attire is great fun and people come from all over the world attending dinner dances to bring in the bells and enjoy a dram at midnight listening to traditional Scottish folk music and Gaelic poetry.

Another spectacular event called the Fireball Ceremony takes place in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen. Giant fireballs, weighing up to 20 pounds are lit and swung around on five feet long metal poles, requiring 60 men to carry them as they march up and down the High Street.

The origin of the pre-Christian custom is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice of late December with the fireballs signifying the power of the sun, to purify the world by consuming evil spirits.

In the Islands of Scotland don’t think that Hogmanay passes quietly! Quite the opposite in fact. Ceilidhs & fireworks take place on the many islands around the coast.

Hogmanay For The Outdoor Adventurers

Not everyone celebrates Hogmanay at parties, Ceilidhs or in amongst the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities. There is another option for the outdoors enthusiasts who prefer the exciting challenge of a good ice climb or a hike up one of the many Munros. There are so many beautiful areas of Scotland to enjoy the great outdoors from Aviemore nestled within the Cairngorms National Park to Fort William, home of the largest mountain in the UK Ben Nevis, locally known as ‘The Ben’.

Photo Credit: Angela Younas - Ben Nevis summit.

Photo Credit: Angela Younas – Sunset from the top of Ben Nevis

Not far from Fort William, in the West Highlands, lies the stunning and truly spectacular mountains of Glencoe, the scene of an infamous massacre of the MacDonalds back in 1692.

Photo Credit: Angela Younas - Buachaille Etive Mor

One of the most famous, although not the largest Munro in the area is probably the most photographed mountain of all, Buachaille Etive Mor (Gaelic: The Herdsman of Etive). You simply can’t miss this stunning Munro as you drive along the A82 heading North to Glencoe & Ballachulish. Locals call it the guardian of Glencoe as it rises from the ground with such beauty and stature. If you walk the West Highland Way you will also pass by this magnificent mountain before ascending the Devil’s Staircase to Kinlochleven. This Munro has featured in numerous recent TV adverts for Cadburys Chocolate & Peugeot. Glen Etive the glen next to it has also featured in the James Bond movie Skyfall.

Lots of people like to wildcamp at Hogmanay in the Highlands provided the conditions are suitable, it does tend to blow a hoolie over the tops of the mountains throughout the year. When conditions are right though, it’s one of the most amazing experiences to have. Provided you can bare the stunning sunsets and sunrises over the tops of the mountains you are definitely set for an adventure you will never forget!

The Morning After…

After all that partying, spending time with friends and family and wishing your neighbours a ‘braw’ New Year most people enjoy a nice quiet 1st of January, but not everyone! Probably the craziest thing you could do after Hogmanay is jump into a freezing cold river right? Well, the Loony Dookers who attend Stoats Loony Dook in Edinburgh get up early on New Year’s Day, get dressed up in wonderful costumes and head down to South Queensferry to endure a nice cold dip with views of the Forth road & rail bridges! This tradition has been going on for more than 30 years. Local news usually covers the event to the amusement of everyone and despite the biting cold temperatures, everyone seems to have a wonderful time!

It takes the Scots two days to recover from Hogmanay and January 2nd is a holiday in Scotland as well as the first day of the year! Perhaps they have the right idea when it comes to welcoming a fun New Year.

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