‘Hogmanay’ is celebrated in Scotland on the last day of the year, with festivities often extending until the first or second day of the New Year. Also known as Ne’erday (Netherday, New Year’s Day), Hogmanay is thought to be related to pagan celebrations such as the Winter Solstice and Yule. The origin of the term ‘Hogmanay’ is debated, but the festival has been an integral part of Scotland for centuries.
Hogmanay took centre stage in Scotland after Christmas was banned by Protestant reformists in the 17th century for being ‘too Catholic’. Even after laws were changed in the 1960s, Hogmanay remains an important Scottish celebration.
Local customs include ‘first-footing’ (trying to get your foot first in a doorway of friends/neighbours houses after midnight), ‘redding’ (spring cleaning), torchlight processions, fireball swinging, and singing Auld Lang Syne to harken in a good new year.
A variation on Hogmanay is ‘Up Helly Aa’, which is held in the remote Shetland Islands of Scotland around New Year’s Eve. Celebrating their Norse background, local revellers hold great festivals of fire, where they dress up like Vikings and burn replica Viking longships.
© The Celtic Journey (2012)