— with the main stress on the
last syllable) is the Scots
the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of
the New Year
) in the Scottish
manner. It is, however, normally only the start of a celebration
which lasts through the night until the morning of New Year's Day
(1 January) or, in some cases,
2 January which is a Scottish
of the word is obscure. It
may have been introduced to Middle
through the Auld Alliance
the custom was mentioned in the Elgin Records as
The most satisfactory explanation is a
derivation from the Northern French dialect word
, or variants such as hoginane
. Those being derived
from 16th century Old French
which is either a gift given at New Year, a
children's cry for such a gift or New Year's Eve itself. The second
element would appear to be l'an neuf
i.e. the New Year.
those to Norman hoguinané
and the obsolete customs in Jersey of crying
ma hodgîngnole, and in Guernsey of asking
for an oguinane, for a New Year gift.
Other suggestions include:
John Brand's Popular Antiquities (1859)
describes a custom in Kent of 'going a
hodening' at Christmas, going round the houses in procession and
singing carols, accompanied by a sort of hobby-horse.
- Scottish Gaelic
Og-Mhadainn/h' og maidne ('new morning')
- The Gaelic expression "theacht mean oiche" ('the
arrival of midnight', pronounced 'heacht meawn eehe')
- Gaelic ochd meadhan oidhche ('eighth midnight' (eighth
night from Christmas))
- Old English haleg
monaþ ('Holy Month')
- Manx word Hop-tu-Naa (31 October) - the Old Gaelic new year.
- French hoguinané ('a
New Year's gift'), au gui mener ('lead to the mistletoe'),
au gui l'an neuf ('to the mistletoe the new year'), or
(l')homme est né ('(the) man is born')
- Dutch hoog min dag ('day
of great love')
- Greek αγια μηνη ('holy
- Spanish aguinaldo ('Christmas gift')
The roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the celebration of the
among the Norse, as
well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic
New Year's celebration of Samhain
, winter solstice evolved into the
ancient celebration of Saturnalia
winter festival, where
people celebrated completely free of restraint and inhibition. The
which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas
, or the
"Daft Days" as they were sometimes called in Scotland. The winter
festival went underground with the Protestant Reformation
years, but re-emerged near the end of the 17th century.
There are many customs, both national and local, associated with
Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of
' which starts immediately
after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the
threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of
symbolic gifts such as salt
(a rich fruit cake
) intended to bring different kinds of
luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then
given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of
the morning and well into the next day (although modern days see
people visiting houses until 3 January). The first-foot is supposed
to set the luck for the rest of the year.
Each area of Scotland often developed its own particular Hogmanay
Stonehaven Fireballs Ceremony 2003
example of a local Hogmanay custom is the fireball swinging that
takes place in Stonehaven
in north-east Scotland. This involves local people
making up 'balls' of chicken wire filled with old news paper, dried
sticks, old cotton rags, and other dry flammable material up to a
diameter of 61 cm. Each ball has 2 m of wire, chain or
nonflammable rope attached. As the Old Town House bell sounds to
mark the new year, the swingers set off up the High Street from the
Mercat Cross to the Cannon and back, swinging their burning ball
around their head as they go for as many times as they and their
fireball last. At the end of the ceremony any fireballs that are
still burning are cast into the harbour. Many people enjoy this
display, which is more impressive in the dark than it would be
during the day. As a result large crowds flock to the town to see
it, with 12,000 attending the 2007/2008 event. In recent years,
additional attractions have been added to entertain the crowds as
they wait for midnight, such as fire
, a pipe band
, street drumming and
a firework display after the last fireball is cast into the sea.
The festivities are now streamed live over the Internet.
example of a pagan fire festival is the the burning of the clavie which takes
place in the town of Burghead in Moray.
east coast fishing communities and Dundee,
first-footers used to carry a decorated herring while in Falkland in
Fife, local men would go in torchlight procession to the
top of the Lomond
Hills as midnight approached. Bakers in St Andrews would bake special cakes for their Hogmanay
celebration (known as 'Cake Day') and distribute them to local
In Glasgow and the central areas of Scotland, the tradition is to
hold Hogmanay parties involving singing, dancing, the eating of
steak pie or stew, storytelling and consumption of copious amounts
of alcohol, which usually extend into the daylight hours of January
Institutions also had their own traditions. For example, amongst
the Scottish regiments, the officers had to wait on the men at
special dinners while at the bells, the Old Year is piped out of
barrack gates. The sentry then challenges the new escort outside
the gates: 'Who goes there?' The answer is 'The New Year, all's
An old custom in the Highlands, which has survived to a small
extent and seen some degree of revival, is to celebrate Hogmanay
with the saining
'protecting, blessing') of the household and livestock. This is
done early on New Year's morning with copious, choking clouds of
smoke from burning juniper
branches, and by
drinking and then sprinkling 'magic water' from 'a dead and living
' around the house ('a dead and
living ford' refers to a river ford which is routinely crossed by
both the living and the dead). After the sprinkling of the water in
every room, on the beds and all the inhabitants, the house is
sealed up tight and the burning juniper carried through the house
and byre. The smoke is allowed to thoroughly fumigate the buildings
until it causes sneezing and coughing among the inhabitants. Then
all the doors and windows are flung open to let in the cold, fresh
air of the new year. The woman of the house then administers 'a
restorative' from the whisky bottle, and the household sits down to
their New Year breakfast.
"Auld Lang Syne"
The Hogmanay custom of singing "Auld Lang
" has become common in many countries. "Auld Lang Syne" is
a traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert
, which was later set to music. It is now common for this
to be sung in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one
another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day, although
in Scotland the traditional practice is to cross arms only for the
In the media
During the years 1957 - 68 a New Year's Eve television programme,
called "The White Heather
", was used to herald in the Hogmanay celebrations.
The show was presented by Andy
who always began by singing "Come in, come in, it's
nice to see you...." The show always ended with Andy Stewart and
the cast singing, "Haste ye Back"
- Haste ye back, we loue you dearly,
- Call again you're welcome here.
- May your days be free from sorrow,
- And your friends be ever near.
- May the paths o'er which you wander,
- Be to you a joy each day.
- Haste ye back we loue you dearly,
- Haste ye back on friendship's way.
The performers were Jimmy Shand
band, Ian Powrie and his band, Scottish country dancers: Dixie
Ingram and the Dixie Ingram Dancers, Joe Gordon Folk Four, James
Urquhart, Ann & Laura Brand, Moira
. All the dancers, and Andy Stewart, wore kilts, and
the women dancers wore long white dresses with tartan sashes. The
show was so successful that in the early 60's there was a company
touring Scottish theatres, containing many of the performers. The
show was filmed in Glasgow, at that time the only large TV studio
in Scotland.The show contained many of the same performers plus
special guests such as Jimmy Logan
in comedy sketches.
The White Heather Club was also a weekly TV series and replaced an
earlier Hogmanay show called The Kilt is My Delight which ran from
1953-1957. Following the demise of the White Heather Club, Andy
Stewart regularly featured in TV Hogmanay Shows until his
retirement. His last appearance was in 1992. His shows included
Andy's Party and the Andy Stewart show. In the 1980s comedian
presented the Hogmanay
show on BBC Scotland while Peter Morrison presented a show called
"A Highland Hogmanay" on STV/Grampian. This was axed in 1993.
The Presbyterian Church generally disapproved of Hogmanay. The
following quote is one of the first mentions of the holiday in
official church records:
'It is ordinary among some plebeians in the South of Scotland to go
about from door to door upon New-years Eve, crying Hagmane.'
Until the 1960s, Hogmanay and Ne'erday (a contraction of 'New
Year's Day' in Scots dialect, according to the OED) in Scotland
took the place of Christmas Eve
in the rest of the UK.
Christmas Day held its normal religious nature, the Presbyterian
national church, the Church of Scotland, had discouraged its celebration for over 400
As a result Christmas Day was a normal working day in
Scotland until the 1960s and even into the 1970s in some areas. The
gift-giving, public holidays and feasting associated with
mid-winter were held between the 31 December and 2 January rather
than between 24 December and 26 December.
With the fading of the Church's influence and the introduction of
English cultural values via television and immigration, the
transition to Christmas feasting was well-nigh complete by the
1980s. However, 1 January and 2 January remain public holidays in
Scotland, despite the addition of Christmas Day and Boxing Day
to the public holiday list, and
Hogmanay still is associated with as much celebration as Christmas
in Scotland. Most Scots still celebrate Ne'erday with a special
dinner, usually steak pie
Ne'erday falls on a Sunday, 3 January becomes an additional public
holiday in Scotland; when Ne'erday falls on a Saturday, both 3
January and 4 January will be public holidays in Scotland; when
Ne'erday falls on a Friday, 4 January becomes an additional public
holiday in Scotland.
As in much
of the world, the largest Scottish cities, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen hold all-night celebrations, as does Stirling.
The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations are
among the largest in the world, although in 2003-4 most of the
organised events were cancelled at short notice due to very high
winds. The Stonehaven Fireballs went ahead as planned, however,
with approximately 6000 brave souls braving the stormy weather to
watch 42 fireball swingers process along the High Street.
Similarly, the 2006-07 celebrations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and
Stirling were all cancelled on the day, again due to high winds and
heavy rain. The Aberdeen celebration, however, went ahead, and was
opened by the pop music group, Wet Wet
Historically, presents were given in Scotland on the first Monday
of the New Year. This would be celebrated often by the employer
giving his staff presents and parents giving children presents. A
roast dinner would be eaten to celebrate the festival. Handsel was
a word for gift box and hence Handsel
. In modern Scotland this practice has died out.
- Campbell, John Gregorson (1900, 1902, 2005) The Gaelic
Otherworld. Edited by Ronald Black. Edinburgh, Birlinn Ltd.
ISBN 1-84158-207-7 p. 575: "'Hogmanay' is French in origin. In
northern French dialect it was hoguinané, going back to
Old French aguillaneuf, meaning a gift given on New Year's
eve or the word cried out in soliciting it."
- Hogmanay 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- Stonehaven Fireball Association photos and videos of
festivities. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
- Aberdeen Press and Journal 2 Jan 2008. "around
12,000 turned out in Stonehaven to watch the town's traditional
fireball ceremony". Retrieved 3 January 2008.
- ' Hogmanay Traditions' at Scotland's Tourism
Board. Retrieved 21 December 2007.
- " Queen stays at arm's length". Lancashire
Evening Telegraph, 5 January 2000.
- 1692 Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence (ed. 2) p. 82.
- ' Scottish Hogmanay Customs and Traditions at New
Year' at About Aberdeen. Retrieved 21 December 2007.
- ' History of the Stonehaven Fireballs Ceremony', 3
January 2008, at Stonehaven Fireballs Association.
Retrieved 3 January 2008.
- ' Weather spoils Hogmanay parties', 1 January
2007, at BBC News, Scotland. Retrieved 21 December
- Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great
Britain, Brand, London, 1859
- Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernesiais, de Garis,
- Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français, Le Maistre, Jersey,
- 1692 Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, Edinburgh
- Dictionary of
the Scots Language, Edinburgh