Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year, its origins are unknown, but some believe it may have originated from either French or Norse, or from an early form of the Celtish language. The word was first recorded in the early 17th century and again towards the end. There are a variety of different spellings, but naturally, they all mean the same thing. It has a long history that can be traced back to the Anglo Saxon times. There are some who believe that Hogmanay is something the Scots inherited from the Vikings themselves. Shetland was under a great deal of Viking influence during their time here and they call New Year “Yules,” which is derived from a Scandinavian word the Vikings would have used themselves.
New Year celebrations
Hogmanay has always been the more celebrated of the two festive holidays. It is also the one venue that everybody wants to be when New Year’s Eve approaches.
Auld Lang Syne is a song that everyone sings as the clocks strike midnight on New Year’s Eve, it was written by Burns and is also one of the most frequently sung songs in the world. It’s also famous for having been used in various films, famous ones such as “When Harry met Sally.”
Hogmanay is an important time to celebrate with family and friends as it is all over the world, it is also a time to welcome strangers and to make way for a new year and welcome new prospects and possibilities ahead.
Christmas was banned in Scotland for almost 400 years form the end of the 17th century to the middle of the 20th century. The Protestant Reformation may have played a part in this with emphasis placed on the Catholic influences on Christmas celebrations. This meant that most Scottish people worked through Christmas and only celebrated New Year, an occasion that came to be known as Hogmanay.
Traditions and customs
Along with celebrating Hogmanay there are little traditions that form a part of the New Year celebrations, such as cleaning your house on New Year’s Eve and clearing all your debts before midnight strikes. Something that we would all like to be able to do! There’s also the first footing which means that the first person entering the house after midnight should be a man and preferably dark, they should also bring with them some whiskey and shortbread. Edinburgh also holds a bonfire and fireworks celebration on New Year’s Eve, which is something that holds a long history going back hundreds of years.
The Hogmanay itself was also known as a smoking stick, this would be animal skins wrapped around a stick that was lit and would provide a smoking effect that was believed to ward off bad spirits.
Not all of these customs are carried out today except in smaller communities where some traditions are kept alive along with old dialects. A fire ceremony is still popular in Stonehaven not far from Aberdeen where fireballs are lit and swung from long poles with men carrying them down the main High Street. The fireballs are similar to the smoking sticks which ward off evil spirits.
These ancient customs and traditions are something the Scots are very proud of and rightly so, as they provide a perfect opportunity to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another in perfect style. Hogmanay is unique to Scotland, but their ideas on how to celebrate New Year’s Eve has spread throughout not just the UK, but the rest of the world. Who better than to show us how to celebrate New Year than the Scots? Happy Hogmanay!
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