What is Hogmanay?

This article on what is Hogmanay was published by the Great British Mag content team on 14 December 2021.

Hogmanay is what the Scots call their New Year’s Eve celebrations. The origins of the word are unclear—some say it’s a corruption of the Greek words for ‘holy month’.

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What are the origins of Hogmanay?

Hogmanay is an amalgamation of how various settlers in Scotland celebrated the winter solstice, including the Vikings who had wild parties to celebrate the shortest day of the year and the start of winter.

Why is it one of the biggest celebrations in Scotland?

Traditionally Hogmanay has been more important than Christmas to Scots, partly because until 1958 Christmas Day wasn’t a public holiday. This is because the Protestant Reformation banned Christmas for 400 years, claiming the celebration had been born out of Paganism and had its roots in the Catholic Church.

This is no longer the case with Scots getting both Christmas and Boxing Day as holidays.

How is it different from other New Year’s Eve celebrations?

It’s longer. Hogmanay starts on New Year’s Eve and continues throughout New Year’s Day and into 2nd January, which are public holidays in Scotland.

How do Scots celebrate it?

Hogmanay is about having a party and the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations are the biggest!

Well over 400,000 people attend from around the world. It starts on 30th Dec, with a torch light parade and the celebrations go onto the next day.

Apart from the big street parties across Scotland where people link hands when the clock strikes midnight on 30th Dec to sing Auld Lang Syne, there are a number of popular traditions associated with Hogmanay, including first-footing.

First-footing is a tradition that the first person to enter the house after midnight should bring gifts because it will make the household more prosperous for the coming year.

What are the weird traditions around the celebration?

A tradition called ‘Loony Dook’ is probably the weirdest. It is when hundreds of brave people gather in South Queensferry, dressed up in fancy dress to dive into the icy waters, on 1st January, to raise money for charity.

Photo credit: Chris Watt

Scots also take to the streets of Kirkwall to play a very energetic game of football on 1st January. The streets are filled with hundreds of people who come to participate in the game, which has been known to last for hours.