21 December 2016

HOGMANAY

A little history lesson

Hogmanay is Scottish New Year, a celebration providing a unique combination of both traditional and modern customs.
The exact origins of Hogmanay are unknown, but it is thought that it was introduced in the 8th or 9th century by invading Vikings. The Vikings originated from further north, so it is possible that they paid more attention to celebrating the winter solstice than to Christmas. The shortest day was a good reason for them to have a party. For nearly 400 years, from the 17th Century until the 1950’s, Christmas wasn’t celebrated at all in Scotland. Christmas day therefore was just a normal working day and the big celebrations were saved for winter solstice holiday, which became Hogmanay.
There is a lot of debate over the origins of the word “Hogmanay”. Some linguists say it comes from the Scandinavian word “Hoggo-nott”, which was the name of the feast before the mid-winter Yule festival. Other people believe it might originate in the Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon, French, or Spanish languages, to name but a few!

Weird and wonderful traditions

Nowadays Hogmanay mixes traditions of the past with modern day celebrations. Things start with a custom called “Redding”. This tradition means cleaning the house before the bells at midnight so that you have a clean house to welcome in the New Year and make a fresh start. All debts from the previous year should also be paid back. In the past, it was also important to clean ashes from the fires, to make space for the new fires of the New Year. People also burned juniper in the house to remove any negative spirits from throughout the year.
Another Scottish custom to survive is that of “First Footing”. The “first foot” is the first person to visit your house just after midnight to celebrate the New Year and the person who brings you good luck for the New Year. In the past the “first foot” used to bring a traditional gift of a piece of coal, but nowadays people tend to bring something to eat or drink. It’s bad luck to visit empty-handed, and tradition says that it’s lucky for the first foot to be a dark haired male!

Party time!

Nowadays the modern Hogmanay celebrations include all-night street parties in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, with big crowds, live music, parades and fireworks. Some people wear traditional highland dress such as kilts – a tartan skirt worn by men. You can also find bagpipers and highland dancing. At midnight it is customary to sing “Auld Lang Syne” whilst dancing in a circle. This song is based on old Scottish songs and poems adapted by the poet Robert Burns. The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” means “time gone by” and is a way to say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new one.
Maybe one of the best things about Hogmanay is that it is so important in Scotland that both the 1st and the 2nd of January are public holidays! (In England only the 1st January is a holiday).
If you ever get a chance to welcome in the New Year in Scotland make sure you take it!


People sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight on December 31, but what are the lyrics? Most people don't know that it is a Scottish poem written in 1788 by Robert Burns and later set to the music of a folk song. 

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