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Hogmanay - New Years Eve in Scotland


Scottish Piper - Hogmanay

Scottish Piper

Photo © stockbyte/gettyimages

What is Hogmanay?:

Hogmanay is a Scottish celebration, it is the celebration of New Years Eve and can last for days. No-one celebrates the eve quite like the Scots. It is believed the Scots inherited the celebration of Hogmanay from the Vikings and their celebration of the shortest day but many believe that as Christmas was virtually banned and not celebrated in Scotland from the end of the 17th century until the 1950’s, New Years Eve was a good excuse for some revelry and the excuse to drink whisky and eat good food. Hogmanay involves parties and festivals across Scotland with the largest and most famous public party in Edinburgh.

Hogmanay Customs:

As midnight strikes the strains of Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burn's version of this traditional Scottish air, can be heard everywhere, followed by a toast to health, wealth and happiness for the coming year and the custom of First Footing.

First Footing:

First-Footing – the visiting of friends and family immediately after midnight sees the Scots rushing from house to house to welcome in the New Year. The First-Foot in the house traditionally is a dark, handsome male carrying a piece of coal, whisky, Scottish shortbread and black bun - a rich dark fruitcake encased in pastry. The visitor in return is given a small glass of whisky.

Customs in the Rest of the UK:

Many of the Scottish customs have infiltrated into the rest of Britain. Though First Footing is less common south of the Scottish border, the singing and toasting - sometimes followed by fireworks - can be heard throughout the British Isles.

The Foods of Hogmanay and New Years Eve:

Food at Hogmanay must include the traditional foods of Scotland.

Shortbread is always eaten at Hogmanay and sometimes served with cheese.

All the First Footing on a cold night means food must be warm and comforting a casserole or a hearty Venison Pie with a side dish of Rumbledethumps and of course Haggis will most certainly make an appearance.

And to Drink....?:

It has to be Whisky in Scotland. Scotch Whisky is world renowned and what better time to drink it than Hogmanay. Nobody knows exactly when the art of distilling was first practised in Scotland but it is believed it was the Ancient Celts who first practiced the art. Uisge Beatha - the water of life - as the Celts call it evolved into Scotch, a drink made only in Scotland, but enjoyed around the world.

About's Guide to Cocktails Colleen Graham has great info on Whisky and if you don't like it neat, some great Whisky Recipes or check out The Scotch Whisky Association for further information.

The Words to Auld Lang Syne:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.
The Translation
Should old acquaintances be forgotten
And never be remembered?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten
and days long ago.
For days long ago, my dear,
For days long ago
We'll drink a cup of kindness yet
For days long ago!

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