Hogmanay and New Year in Scotland

Hi and Happy New Year!

As the first post of this 2018, I would like to talk about Hogmanay. What is Hogmanay? It is the name as the New Year in Scotland is known. I have spent my first days of this year in Edinburgh and the Highlands and the Scottish people asked me if I had gone to celebrate the Hogmanay there so, I have investigated and asked more about Hogmanay and I would like to share this traditional and interesting celebration with you.

Origins of Hogmanay

The origins of Hogmanay don’t go back to a specific date. It is said that Hogmanay is of Gaelic and Nordic origin and it coincided with the celebrations of Winter Solstice when people worshiped the sun and fire. The Vikings, who invaded Scotland for a long time, celebrated Yule, known as the twelve days of Christmas. Later, this was celebrated in hiding because of the Protestant Reformation and nowadays the celebrations have changed and this is called Hogmanay. Depending on the city, they celebrate it in a more traditional way than in other cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow or Stirling.

However, there are some traditions that Scottish follow in all over Scotland and they are very interesting.

Traditions of Hogmanay

The first guest in the New Year

Scottish are very superstitious people and to ensure that they will have good luck during the new year, the first guest who they receive at home, has to be a tall man with dark hair. The reason is that the Vikings were blond and if a Viking knocked on your door, it would mean you were going to have problems. This first guest should give as a gift some coal, salt, cookies or whisky.

Photo by Dineslav Roydev on Unsplash

Clean your house and pay your debts

If you start the New Year with your house dirty, it is considered as a sign of bad luck so, take the broom and the hoover and clean it haha

You also have to pay your debts, as a Lannister (if you don’t know what a Lannister is, that was a reference to Game of Thrones).




Sing Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns

Just after midnight, Scottish join to sing all together this famous Scottish song that I’m sure you know and you have heard a lot of times.

And this is another version sung by Rod Stewart

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of the cities in Scotland which receives more people and tourists. You can find a lot of different events to celebrate the New Year.

  • Torchlight Procession

It is celebrated on the 30th of December and it has its origins in a Viking tradition. Thousands of people carry a torch in a parade towards the Royal Mile and they go down to finish in Holyrood Park, next to the Palace of Holyrood, which is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth in Scotland. They are accompanied by percussion during the parade. The event finishes with a fireworks show.

Photo by Chris Watt
  • Street Party

This celebration is the most famous one and around 100.000 people concentrate in the main streets of Edinburgh. You need to buy a ticket to enjoy it. There are live music concerts, food and drink stalls, big screens to follow all the events. This also finish with a huge fireworks show at midnight.

Credit: Facebook Hogmanay Edinburgh
  • Ceilidh under the Castle

The Ceilidh is the Scottish traditional dance. You also need a ticket to join this party and dance. At midnight you can see the fireworks show from this area.

If you want to practise the ceilidh, here it is a video:

  • Loony Dook

This event, which is celebrated on January 1, consists of going to South Queensferry and swimming in the Forth River with a fancy dress. This would be fine if it were summer and we were at 30 degrees but imagine how cold the water is! haha Anyway, maybe with several whiskeys it doesn’t feel so cold haha.

Credit: Facebook Hogmanay Edinburgh

Hogmanay in other cities in Scotland

  • Stonehaven

This event is called Stonehaven Fireballs and it has been celebrated for more than 100 years to start the New Year. It is a ritual to clean the bad spirits with the fire of this huge fireballs.

A bagpipe band also go in the parade. You don’t need a ticket to see this event but you can give a donation to help with the costs of the ceremony.

The parade finishes with the people throwing the fireballs into the water.

  • Burghead

This celebration is dated on the 11th of January in Burghead. They don’t use the Gregorian calendar but the Julian calendar. When the Gregorian calendar was introduced around 1750, they did a protest and they decided to celebrate the New Year when the Julian calendar says. This celebration coincides with the Burning of the Clavie, a Fire Festival.

The Clavie consists of going in a parade with a wooden barril through the city. They put oil to burn it in Doorie hill, next to the wall of a castle. The barrel keeps burning during all the night until the oil is gone, then, it falls down the hill. Having a piece of this barrel will give you good luck for all the year.

There are a lot of Winter Festival to celebrate the Winter Solstice during January and all of them are really interesting. I would like to highlight the Up Helly Aa in Shetland. It is celebrated the last Tuesday of January and all the people go in a torchlight procession during the night and in the end, they burn a viking boat.

As you see, the offer of events is wide. It is hard to decide what to do but I think that everything is really good. The Scottish are very kind and happy. The landscape is amazing. A good place to come back.

Thank you very much for reading the post

Have a nice week


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