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Hogmanay - Celebrating New Year's Eve in Scotland

Updated on March 17, 2017

Hogmanay is a Scottish New Year Tradition

Hogmanay (sometimes seen spelled Hogmany) is a Scots word that refers to New Year's Eve and the subsequent New Year celebrations.

Although Hogmanay itself is 31 December, the Scottish in fact celebrate the new year until 2nd January. This day is an official holiday only in Scotland, and not in the rest of the UK where the word 'Hogmanay' is not used.

Hogmanay involves a number of traditions, including the ancient custom of 'first-footing', the song Auld Lang Syne, and more recently fireworks at Edinburgh Castle.

Both this image and the Edinburgh Fireworks photos below shared by photojenni on flickr.

The song Auld Lang Syne was adapted by Scottish poet Robert Burns from an even older ballad dating from the 1500s or even earlier. It was later given a musical accompaniment, to become the song we all recognise today.

'Auld Lang Syne' means 'old long ago' or more literally 'old long since'.

The lyrics to the first verse and the chorus of the song are as follows:


Should old acquaintances be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne?

[Chorus]

For auld lang syne, my dear

For auld Lang syne,

We'll tak a cup o kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!

The remaining verses of this song and the original poem can be found on the website of the Robert Burns World Federation.

The Scottish custom is to cross the arms and join hands for the final verse only, although the song is more commonly sung with arms crossed for all verses.

First Footing

An old Scottish Hogmanay custom

First footing is a Scottish tradition that involves the first visitor after midnight exchanging gifts of food and drink with the host - to include whisky, shortbread and fruit cake. Traditionally, this list also included a lump of coal, and salt. This custom would bring luck in the coming year.

Tradition has it that the first foot should be a tall, dark male who has not been in that house previously that evening.

In modern times, the practice is more likely to involve visitors arriving on New Year's Day or the official national holiday of 2 January, and receiving hospitality from their hosts. Whisky and other alcoholic beverages are commonly part of this.

Several customs particular to local areas of Scotland also persist, including the swinging of fireballs in Stonehaven and burning juniper branches in the Highlands to protect the house. Hogmanay celebrations in St Andrews would include the bakers making cakes for the town's children, and the ancient town of Falkland, also in Fife on the East coast of Scotland, was the scene for a torchlit procession up the local hill (source Wikipedia).

Hogmany Fireworks in Edinburgh

Hogmany Fireworks in Edinburgh
Hogmany Fireworks in Edinburgh
Hogmany fireworks in Edinburgh
Hogmany fireworks in Edinburgh

Hogmanay Fireworks at Edinburgh Castle

And the famous street party in Princes Street

Edinburgh Castle, at the centre of the Scottish capital city, has for many years been the focal point of the nation's Hogmanay celebrations. The Hogmanay Street Party is a world-famous event that attracts thousands each year, with tickets greatly sought after. The street party is in fact just one of a series of events that also includes torchlight processions (as seen in the picture in the introduction).

The televised event includes dancing to live bands and culminates in a glorious fireworks display.

Image shared by theedinburghblog on flickr.

Music: Pipes and Drums

For a true Scottish style celebration, you need Scottish music. And that means bagpipes and drums. This CD is authentic Scottish music played by the Grampian Police Pipe Band. 20 favourite Scottish tunes include Amazing Grace and Flower of Scotland.

View the Edinburgh Hogmanay Celebrations! - Watch the Edinburgh New Year's Eve fireworks

If you can't be in the Scottish capital for Hogmany, this video will let you share in the amazing fireworks display in the center of Edinburgh.

Hogmanay Fact

Outside of Scotland, Hogmanay is also celebrated in the English town of Corby which experienced a high influx of Scottish workers in the 1930s.

(Thanks to Ricky MacLeod for sharing this fact!)

For your own Hogmanay celebrations...

For a traditional Hogmanay celebration, you will need:

  • Whisky ('whisky' is the Scots spelling, some just call whisky from Scotland 'Scotch'; 'whiskey' is correct spelling for the Irish variety)
  • Whisky glasses to toast your friends and loved ones
  • Something to eat - shortbread is a great choice, or why not try some whisky fruit cake (also a traditional favorite)
  • Plenty of music including the traditional bagpipes and drums playing old Scottish airs

Wishing you all the best for Hogmanay and for the year ahead!

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Hogmanay

Submit a Comment

  • Heidi Vincent profile image

    Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

    This lens was very informative. I leaned about a different New Year culture.I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year, WordCustard!

  • profile image

    miller83 4 years ago

    I'm from Aberdeen originally and had many a hogmany. Love this lens.

  • profile image

    cmadden 4 years ago

    Merry Hogmanay!

  • chezchazz profile image

    Chazz 5 years ago from New York

    Sounds like a fun way to celebrate the New Year. Would love to experience Hogmanay in Scotland some day.

  • Lee Hansen profile image

    Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

    I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to Hogmanay. I would love to visit Scotland and perhaps I one day may. If so, I would try to schedule the trip over the holidays.

  • Bill Armstrong profile image

    Bill Armstrong 6 years ago from Valencia, California

    I certainly did and thank you for sharing, now I know where to go for nice posters

  • dogodor profile image

    dogodor 6 years ago

    I love Scotland....and this lens.

  • profile image

    dragonlow 6 years ago

    Great lens with good info. Thanks!

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    i would like to say that there is one small town elsewhere in the uk that does celebrate hogmanay and its a place in england called corby where i was born in the late 1930s a steeltown was born and masses of scotts moved south down to corby wich eventually became nicknamed little scotland check this link http://www.corby.me.uk/.............but otherwise its an excellent lens and by the way im english with a scottish father and when i go out of corby because of my accent i get called a plastic jock or english sassinack

  • ChrisDay LM profile image

    ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

    Great lens - just squidrolled it to my Quiz on Scotland.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    This lens is awesome man! As soon as it warms up there and the water pipes unfreeze we will be on our way there and to Rotterdam. See some of my fuel lenses and you will understand. Thank you so much for sharing this, creating this and taking the time to drop by my lens on albinism and leave such kind comments today! You rock!

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this. My grandfather, whom I did not know well, was born in Scotland.

  • Terry Boroff profile image

    Terry Boroff (flipflopnana) 6 years ago from FL

    Really enjoyed learning about Hogmanay - Thanks! Happy New Year!

  • BrickHouseFabrics profile image

    BrickHouseFabrics 6 years ago

    Happy Hogmanay!

  • mom-247 profile image

    mom-247 6 years ago

    Happy New Year! I have added you to my "lenses I have blessed" lens...

  • mysticmama lm profile image

    Bambi Watson 6 years ago

    Happy Hogmanay!

    ~ Blessed >*

  • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

    Kathy McGraw 6 years ago from California

    Happy New Year my friend....loved learning about your celebration of Hogmanay :) I'll bet some people wish for many vistitors (more to drink) while some are OK with just a few :) Have fun!!!

  • dc64 lm profile image

    dc64 lm 6 years ago

    Call me crazy, but I love fruitcake! I'd like a slice of Glenfiddich Fruitcake right now. I've never heard of first footing before this, but I love reading about the customs of different countries and cultures.

  • WildFacesGallery profile image

    Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

    I had heard of Hogmanay but had no idea what it was. Sounds like great fun. Especially the gifts of whiskey and shortbread part. :) Happy New Year or rather Hogmanay!

  • PNWtravels profile image

    Vicki Green 6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

    I'd never heard of Hogmanay before. I enjoyed learning about it in this excellent lens. Blessed by a SquidAngel.

  • jdwheeler profile image

    jdwheeler 6 years ago

    I love learning something new everyday. I had no idea about this. Sounds like a most excellent time.

  • Michey LM profile image

    Michey LM 6 years ago

    Yes, I enjoy and learn about Hogmanay, so Thanks, Blessings

    And a great New Year

  • justholidays profile image

    justholidays 6 years ago

    So, have you found those 12 Scots in kilt who play bagpipe? I'm excited... LOL. Happy Christmas!u

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @scar4: Thanks for the kind words!

  • profile image

    scar4 7 years ago

    it's good to know a little piece of culture. I didn't even know the word hogmanay before reading your lens. Very information and nice pick of picture.

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @grannysage: Yes, Hogmanay is a huge occasion here, as you have discovered!

  • profile image

    grannysage 7 years ago

    They sure know how to party in Scotland (with my part Scottish hubby sitting next to me). The fireworks were tremendous.

  • indigoj profile image
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    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Lee Hansen: Thank you very much for your good wishes and for the lensroll, Pastiche! Wishing you every success in 2010.

  • Lee Hansen profile image

    Lee Hansen 7 years ago from Vermont

    Happy, healthy New Year! I enjoyed this interesting lens, learned more about Scot culture and Hogmanay. Lensrolled to New Year clip art as a related and educational resource.

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @loganadrian: Thank you, and the same to you!

  • profile image

    loganadrian 7 years ago

    Simple Lovely. Have a great new year.

  • indigoj profile image
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    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @OhMe: I hope you get to return to Stornoway one day, and thanks for visiting!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @anonymous: Thanks and happy new year to you too!

  • OhMe profile image

    Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

    Hogmanay sounds like a fantastic way to bring in the new year. I sure enjoyed learning about it since our sister city is Stornoway.

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    anonymous 7 years ago

    Good work on this lens -****5 and favorited, Happy New Year!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @mariatjader: Thank you, and the same to you!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @lasertek lm: Thanks for visiting - yes, Scotland really does go in for the New Year in big way. Best wishes for 2010.

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @anonymous: Sounds like some wonderful memories! Wishing you all the best for 2010!

  • mariatjader profile image

    mariatjader 7 years ago

    Lovely lens! Have a Prosperous 2010!

  • lasertek lm profile image

    lasertek lm 7 years ago

    Interesting! This is probably the first time I have heard of a New Year tradition. I only heard of Christmas traditions and the like being practiced by people around the world. I think Hogmanay makes Scotland unique from the rest of the countries. 5*

    Hope you could visit my lenses and this fb page. Thanks

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    anonymous 7 years ago

    Hi, thanks for visiting and 5-starring my Scottish wedding music lens! Of course I would be proud to be included in your collection... and I remember fondly playing for Hogmanay, and also for many a Burns night celebration in the Royal Mile Pub near washington dc. It's been years, but I'd do it again any time!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Kapalbility: Thanks, and the same to you!

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    Kapalbility 7 years ago

    Hey, Happy New year. Nice Aud Lang Syne information. I thought that phrase was a name... really. :)

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @luvmyludwig lm: Wishing you a wonderful 2010! :)

  • luvmyludwig lm profile image

    luvmyludwig lm 7 years ago

    I'd never heard of this until yesterday at your blog, Happy Hogmanay!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @CleanerLife: Thanks very much Dan, and the same to you! Hope 2010 is good to you! :-)

  • profile image

    CleanerLife 7 years ago

    Thanks! I loved learning about Hogmanay, I can't remember ever hearing the word before. I'm sure that if I ever did hear it mentioned, I would have had no idea what they were talking about!

    Best wishes to you for Hogmanay and the New Year!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @HorseAndPony LM: Thank you and Happy New Year, my friend! :-)

  • HorseAndPony LM profile image

    HorseAndPony LM 7 years ago

    Happy New Year! What a great lens. I loved reading about Hogmanay.

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Kimsworld LM: Thank you - and a very Happy New Year to you! :-)

  • Kimsworld LM profile image

    Kimsworld LM 7 years ago

    Great lens.Thanks for sharing. Makes me want to grab some whisky and shortbread!!! Not sure about the fruitcake.

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @anonymous: I don't know if your parents are still with us, but if they are I hope they have a lovely wedding anniversary... and if not, I hope the day brings you special memories of them.

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    anonymous 7 years ago

    My parents were married on Hogmanay in Glasgow, Scotland.

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @pkmcruk: Thanks for stopping by Paul. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

  • pkmcruk profile image

    pkmcr 7 years ago from Cheshire UK

    A really lovely lens and I love the part about First Footing which we have always done even though we are in England! Blessed by a Squid Angel :-)

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @grannysage: Thanks for visiting! There is probably quite a lot of similarity between old European customs. Happy New Year to you and your husband!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @lakshyaa: Thanks for the kind comment, Lakshya. Happy New Year!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @poptastic: Thanks for visiting, Cynthia - and all the best for 2010!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @Sylvestermouse: They really are a sight to see! Happy New Year to you!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @aka-rms: And to you, Robin! All the best for 2010.

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @justholidays: Thanks Dom, and wishing you a very Happy New Year!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @jptanabe: Thanks for visiting - have a lovely Hogmanay!

  • indigoj profile image
    Author

    Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

    @ZenandChic: Thank you so much - and a Happy New Year!

  • lakshyaa profile image

    lakshyaa 7 years ago

    Very interesting lens! Nice to know about Hogmanay.

  • poptastic profile image

    Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

    Thank you for taking us to Scotland on New Year's Eve! I've never been so I completely enjoyed this wonderful introduction. (:

  • Sylvestermouse profile image

    Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

    I loved visiting Scotland and now I wish I could go back on New Year's Eve. Those fireworks are breathtakingly beautiful!

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    grannysage 7 years ago

    First footing sounds a lot like the German custom of 'winching" which my first husband's family did. My current husband is of Scottish ancestry and would love Hogmanay. Excellent lens on a little known tradition.

  • aka-rms profile image

    Robin S 7 years ago from USA

    This was a wonderful introduction for me. Happy New Year to you!

  • justholidays profile image

    justholidays 7 years ago

    Yes, I did. This is a very nice lens. You love Scotland a lot! That's great!

    Dom.

  • jptanabe profile image

    Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

    Lovely! Got lots of memories of Hogmanay and first footing from my years in Scotland. Whisky too, of course, but too much of that and you don't have so many clear memories!

  • ZenandChic profile image

    Patricia 7 years ago

    Very nice! Blessed by an angel!