Mark New Year’s Eve the Scottish Way

Scottish Hogmanay Traditions

As we’ve mentioned previously in our blog about Scottish Christmas festivities, for a long time Christmas was not celebrated here in Scotland, and New Year’s Eve was the major winter festival. The last night of the year, Hogmanay, is when Scots families would gather together and exchange gifts. And although we do now embrace Christmas, Hogmanay is still a big deal and our street parties and celebrations are world-renowned. Many of the old traditions are still observed, while some have faded, replaced by new ones. So, let’s explore some of the many Scottish Hogmanay traditions, past and present…

Singing “Auld Lang Syne”

Auld Lang Syne is a poem written in 1788 by the celebrated Scots bard, Robert Burns. He based it on an old folk song that he had heard. The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” means “for old times sake” and the lyrics are about remembering old times with friends. Set to an old Scottish folk tune, the song’s meaning was very fitting for Hogmanay. Singing it became a popular New Year’s tradition, not just in Scotland, but around the world. This old custom continues to this day, as party-goers link hands and sing the song together just after the stroke of midnight, in the first moments of 1st January.

First Footing

First footing is a very old tradition, possibly dating back to the 8th century in Scotland. The Scots believed that the first person to enter a house at the start of a new year (the first footer) could bring good or bad luck with them, which would last for the whole year to come. Generally, a tall, dark-haired male bringing gifts, such as coal, salt or whisky, was considered to be the luckiest. He was welcomed into the house, after midnight, and offered food and drink. In some communities around Scotland, first footing still takes place on Hogmanay.

Bonfires and fireworks

Fire is a symbol of protection, used in Celtic winter festivals for centuries. Many communities would gather around a bonfire on Hogmanay to celebrate the turning of a new year. Today, across Scotland, fire is still an important part of the festivities. Here in Edinburgh, a stunning Torchlight Procession through the city often takes place in the run-up to Hogmanay (although this event has not been announced for 2022). And at the stroke of midnight, fireworks fill the skies above Edinburgh Castle in a magnificent display of colour and light.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

The most famous Hogmanay celebration in Scotland takes place right here in Edinburgh on the night of 31st December. Since 1993, the city has hosted this official event on Princes Street, and it has become a modern tradition. Many thousands of revellers flock here on Hogmanay to enjoy the street party, concerts and a programme of celebrations. Events are ticketed, so book in advance if you want to join in the fun. Find out what’s on this Hogmanay.

If you’re looking for accommodation in Edinburgh, close to the Hogmanay celebrations on Princes Street, book a stay at Parliament House Hotel. Our comfortable, historic hotel is just a short walk away from all the action, so you won’t have to worry about buses or taxis on the way home.