Bothy Tales

Hogmanay Traditions In Scotland

Hogmanay Traditions In Scotland

A new year is almost upon us, and people in Scotland and around the world are celebrating Hogmanay. But what is it, and how is it celebrated?

The Origins Of Hogmanay

During the Protestant reformation of Scotland in 1640, it became illegal to hold Christmas celebrations as these were deemed to be an extravagance of the Catholic Church. For almost 400 years the people of Scotland celebrated on New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay, instead. Christmas itself only became a public holiday in Scotland in 1958.

The source of the word Hogmanay is unknown, although it is thought to come from French or Scandinavian culture.

First footing

The best known tradition of Hogmanay is first-footing. It is said that the first person who crosses your threshold after the bells at midnight determines the fortune of the house.

Ideally, the first person should be a tall, dark-haired man who brings gifts to bring good luck for the year ahead: Coal to warm your home, shortbread to keep you from hunger, and a drink (whisky or preferably gin!) for good cheer and to toast to your health and happiness.

A popular toast is "lang may your lum reek" (long may your chimney smoke), well wishes for good health and prosperity.

Auld Lang Syne

This song by Rabbie Burns is traditionally sung at the start of the new year. Gathered in a circle, everyone holds hands, swinging them slowly while singing along. For the final verse, arms are crossed and hands joined. Then the tempo increases and everyone rushes to the middle and back out, still linked, over and over until the song ends.

Redding The House

It's also traditional for people to declutter, clean their house and remove any old ashes from the fire in the run up to Hogmanay, starting the year ahead with a fresh slate.

Other traditions include hanging rowan branches above the door for good luck, mistletoe inside to ward off illness, holly, hazel and yew would protect the house and those living there. Juniper was also burned to fumigate the house before throwing all the windows and doors open to let in the fresh air of a new year.

Whatever your plans are for Hogmanay and the New Year, we wish you health and happiness for the year ahead!

Slàinte Mhath (good health)!

The Bothy Team