For nearly 400 years, 17th through mid-19th century, celebrating Christmas was virtually banned in Scotland; however, this didn’t mean the Scots went without a winter party to celebrate. Instead the focus of winter celebrations was focused on Hogmanay (Scottish for New Year’s). The traditions of New Year’s have been passed down from generation to generation and today many are still practiced across Scotland.
Here is a list of some Scottish Hogmanay traditions:
- First Footing – In this tradition it is considered good luck for a dark-haired man to be the first to enter your household in the New Year. For good luck to be ensured, the dark-haired man should be the first to step foot in your house and he should bring with him either coal, shortbread, salt or whisky as a symbolic gift of good fortune.
- Fire and Fireworks – These traditions vary widely around Scotland. In some villages and town fireballs are swung around, in some torches are marched down the streets, and in some there are giant bonfires. However, one thing that is ubiquitous across Scotland (and most of the rest of the world) is fireworks. There are large fireworks displays in most Scottish cities, but the largest celebrations are in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
- Singing Auld Lang Syne – Though this tradition is now practiced all over the world, it originated in Scotland. The most famous version of the song/poem was written by famous Scottish writer and poet Robert Burns. At midnight on New Year’s Eve you can here this song being sung loudly on every street and in every house in Scotland.
- Cleaning the house – To get a fresh start to the New Year most Scots clean the house completely before the end of the year. This also involves clearing the ashes from the fireplace.
- Clearing your debts – It is a tradition to ensure a prosperous start to your New Year to make sure you’ve payed back or cleared all of your debts before the bells sound at midnight on the 31st
- An extra day to recover – In many countries around the world the 1st of January is a national holiday and most business and schools are closed. This is the case in Scotland as well; however, in Scotland you also get the 2nd January off as a national holiday. Who doesn’t want some extra time off to recover from all that partying?
- Welcoming – The most important part of Hogmanay is to be welcoming to everyone. Friends and strangers alike are welcomed to join in on the festivities.
No one celebrates New Year’s quite like the Scottish people. And, if you want to come to the biggest party of them all, you should come to Princes Street in Edinburgh.
At the festivities in Edinburgh you will see fireworks, bonfires, concerts, rides, food, drink, singing and of course a ceilidh (traditional Scottish music and dancing).