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Happy Hogmanay from Scotland

New Years Eve is celebrated around the world but here in Scotland we call it Hogmanay!


Edinburgh Castle Fireworks at Hogmanay (Image:Edinburgh.org)

There are many theories about the meaning of the word Hogmanay, and many believe we inherited the celebration from the Vikings.


Led by Shetland’s Up Helly Aa Vikings a torchlight procession through the centre of Edinburgh kicks of this year’s Hogmanay Celebrations (Image:BBC News)

Christmas was not celebrated in Scotland until fairly recently, after the Church Reformation in the 16th Century, the celebration of Christmas was frowned on by the Church of Scotland. Christmas Day was a normal working day for most people in Scotland and it was not a public holiday until 1958. As many Scots had to work over Christmas they came together as a family at New Year instead to celebrate the winter solstice holiday. The 1st and 2nd of January are public holidays in Scotland and Hogmanay remains an important celebration.

There are many customs both national and local associated with Hogmanay

Traditional customs before midnight are making sure the house is clean and families traditionally did a big clean to ready the house for the New Year. Sweeping out the fireplace to clear the ashes before midnight was very important as was making sure any debts where settled, it was considered back luck to have debts at New Year.

As the bells begin to strike twelve, somebody should let the old year out – open the back door and sweep it out. Then go to the front door and open it to welcome the New Year in.

A traditional greeting is:-

“Welcome in New Year!

When you come, bring good cheer!”

Immediately after midnight or the bells as we call it in Scotland it is traditional to sing Robert Burns “Auld Lang Syne” everyone stands in a circle and joins hands.

I think this rendition is beautiful

First footing- starts after midnight, this involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt, coal, shortbread, whisky and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Traditionally a tall, dark handsome stranger had to be the first at the door to bring good luck for the year ahead.

Saining of the House – This is a very old rural tradition that involved blessing the house and livestock with water from a local stream, the inside of the house was also blessed room to room with a smouldering juniper branch and then the windows are opened.

Bonfires and Fire Festivals- Fireworks, torchlight processions and bonfires are common in Scotland at Hogmanay and in January and may come from ancient Pagan and Viking customs.

One of the most spectacular of these is here in the North East of Scotland -The Stonehaven Fireball Festival.

At the stroke of midnight local people swinging flaming wire cages, around their heads walk down Stonehaven High Street. The fireballs are then thrown in the harbour. The idea behind the ceremony is to burn off the bad spirits left from the old year so that the spirits of the New Year can come in clean and fresh.


All of the Celtic countries have a similar custom of lighting a candle to light the way of a stranger. In Scotland was the Oidche Choinnle, or Night of Candles. Candles were placed in every window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve and First Footers on New Years Eve. Shopkeepers gave their customers Yule Candles as a symbol of goodwill wishing them a ‘Fire to warm you by, and a light to guide you’

It would not be Hogmanay for me without a good ceilidh dance so here is wee tune to see the year out, enjoy!


Bliadhna Mhath Ùr to you all, wishing you a very Happy New Year!