Hogmanay in Scotland |Everything You Need to Know About Celebrating New Year in 2024

Ladies and gentlemen, Hogmany is almost here, and I hope you’ve already cleaned the dust from the flutes, stocked up on champagne, and prepared some fun New Year movies. For me and many of you, New Year is one of the most exciting and important holidays of the year. But have you ever wondered what a Scottish New Year looks like? What are the customs and traditions, and most importantly, what is Hogmanay? Keep reading, so you can throw in a couple of fun facts about Hogmanay at the New Year party and impress your loved ones with your knowledge.

What is Hogmanay?

Hogmanay in Scotland

Hogmanay, a Scottish term, signifies the culmination of the old year or, simply put, the celebration of the new year. Here in Scotland, we love to go all out on this day, concluding the year with feasting, surrounded by family and friends, indulging in lots of laughter and fun together.

Before Hogmanay, the people of Scotland observed Yule, a winter holiday rooted in pagan and druidic traditions. However, with the reformation in Scotland and the fact that Yule coincided with Christmas, this winter celebration faced a ban in the 17th century. Those caught celebrating either Christmas or Yule were severely punished. Nonetheless, the spirit of celebration persisted, and the winter festivities found a new home on December 31st. This allowed folks to revel in the festive spirit without political interference. While the Christmas ban was lifted in the late 17th century, New Year remained on the calendar, and people continued celebrating both holidays. This winter period was affectionately known as the “daft days,” signifying a time for rest and celebration during the dark winter months.

Today, Hogmanay stands as one of the grandest holidays in the country, drawing millions of visitors to Scotland each year. If you’ve managed to snag some time off to stay in Scotland and celebrate the New Year here, consider yourself lucky. The big cities across Scotland transform into one massive party, where people count down to 12 in unison.

Hogmany traditions

There are several important scottish traditions that I would love to share with you (so you are aware and prepared).

1. Clean the House: It’s held in belief that a tidy house symbolises a fresh start for the new year, emphasising the importance of cleaning up before welcoming it. Scots often extend this to cleaning their fireplaces on this day (The fireplace would have to be lit before midnight; otherwise, bad spirits won’t go away). Additionally, it holds significance to settle all debts and clear pending bills, aiming for an improved financial situation in the coming year. This practice is also referred to as “Redding”.

2. Join Torchlight Procession: A relatively new tradition, around 30 years old, but it has become exceptionally popular. Thousands of participants walk together with torchlights, culminating in one of the best fire performances in Scotland. Pretty neat, but why, you may ask? Well, burning a fire in the new year that still shines brightly after midnight represents good luck.

3. First Footing: Now, this one’s a fun one! As the clock strikes midnight, the first person walking into your house is said to define how the next year will go. To ensure the best year possible, the first person should be a tall, dark-haired man carrying gifts like coal, whisky, or shortbread. This tradition stems from a time when the arrival of a blond man (Viking) was considered a bad sign, as they were not there to join the celebration, and locals preferred to avoid any troubles.

4. Watch Fireworks: A typical Hogmanay tradition popular worldwide and loved here in Scotland too. Head to the city centre before midnight to count down to 12 with the whole country. Here is my post on best places where to watch fireworks in Edinburgh.

5. Sing Robert Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’: When the clock hits midnight, you’ll likely hear Scots singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Robert Burns, one of the most important Scottish poets of all time, adds a poetic touch to the celebration.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

6. Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party: This world-famous event is essentially a huge outdoor party with approximately 80,000 people, featuring different stages, bands, and concerts in the gardens. Remember, it’s a ticketed event, so book your tickets months in advance. Personally, I’m not a huge fan, given the unpredictable Scottish weather. The last thing I want is to party under the rain.

So, are you prepared for the New Year? I hope so. Leave any questions in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer. Enjoy the last days of the year 2023.

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