Image by Robbie Shade
On December 31st, most of the world will be celebrating New Year’s Eve. However, in Scotland, this day marks the start of Hogmanay – a very important celebration for everyone across the country.
What is Hogmanay?
Hogmanay is the Scottish name for the last day of the year, and it’s what the Scots call their New Year celebrations.
The origins of Hogmanay’s festivities trace all the way back to the Vikings. In the 8th and 9th century, Norse invaders to Scotland celebrated the Winter Solstice – or the shortest day of the year – with a series of wild parties.
In the centuries since, those parties have gradually added features from the Gaelic Samhain winter festival and ancient elements of Yule, until Hogmanay became the celebration we recognise today.
Why is Hogmanay so important to the Scots?
Until fairly recently, the Scots’ celebrations of Christmas were just quiet family affairs. In fact, December 25th didn’t even become a public holiday in the country until 1958. For this reason, Hogmanay represented the year’s only recognised time for merriment and family get-togethers, and it still holds a very special place in Scottish hearts.
What is the difference between Hogmanay and other New Year’s celebrations?
The main difference is that Hogmanay stretches across three days – starting on New Year’s Eve and continuing all the way through until January 2nd. However, there are also several other quirks and traditions that make Hogmanay unique.
First footing, for example, is a tradition with a legacy firmly rooted in Hogmanay’s Norse origins. During the Viking invasion, blonde visitors were never a welcome sight, so to ensure good luck, the ‘first foot’ to enter a house after midnight on New Year’s Eve should be a dark-haired male.
It is also customary that the dark-haired ‘first footer’ brings gifts including shortbread, a black bun and, of course, a nip of traditional Scottish whisky.
Additional quirks of Hogmanay that have developed over the years include, locals in Stonehaven making balls from chicken wire and paper to set alight and swing around; brave Scots throwing themselves into icy water in South Queensferry for charity; and a game of football in Kirkwall played by as many as 350 people.
What events do the Scots hold to celebrate Hogmanay?
Although every Scottish city celebrates New Year in style, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations are undoubtedly the biggest. In 2015, revellers are set to be wowed by three days of street parties, fireworks, and live music from the biggest bands and up-and-coming acts.
Nonetheless, if you are looking for the most authentic Scottish New Year experience, the Highlands remain the spiritual home of Hogmanay.
Celebrating Hogmanay in the Highlands
Traditionally, Inverness is regarded as the capital of the Highlands, and every year the city hosts The Red Hot Highland Fling. Billed as ‘the largest free Hogmanay party in Scotland’, the event regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors from all over the world.
Festivities begin around midday, as crowds of street artists take to Inverness’ high street to drum up a party atmosphere. By the time celebrations reach a crescendo with midnight fireworks and a hearty chorus of Auld Lang Syne, revellers will get the opportunity to enjoy a wide array of music, food and drink.
After the fun of Inverness, the advantage of celebrating New Year in the Highlands is the beautiful surroundings you can explore the next day to help clear a fuzzy head.
For example, you can discover the area’s beautiful beaches, take a stroll through the stunning glens or jump on a cruise across one of the famous lochs. There’s the opportunity to sample the locally distilled whisky and marvel at the wonderful wildlife that calls the region its home. Put simply: the Highlands offer an abundance of fantastic opportunities to help re-charge your batteries for the forthcoming year.
So, would you like to experience the Scottish New Year in style? Then check out Highland Heritage’s exclusive Hogmanay-themed coach tour – which includes luxurious accommodation, sumptuous Highland banquets, fantastic fireworks, full day excursions and much more.