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Gillian Kyle’s history of Hogmanay

by admin 16 Dec 2016
Gillian Kyle’s history of Hogmanay
The New Year is welcomed in around the world, but Scots Hogmanay celebrations are undoubtedly the pinnacle of New Year's celebrations! We have our own name for party and our festivities are steeped in tradition. These begin long before midnight (‘the bells’) – so here is my guide to what it’s all about.

What is Hogmanay? 


Legend has it that Hogmanay is a throwback to Viking times (I love the idea that it’s a bit of pagan history).
The word Hogmanay itself has been around since the 8th or 9th century, depending who you listen to it can be attributed to the Flemish, Anglo Saxon or French. Nowadays Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party is legendary the world over – proud Scot moment!
So why is Hogmanay such a big deal? Christmas wasn’t always so important in Scotland. Until the 1950’s lots of Scots worked over Christmas, so New Year was the time to get together with family and friends.

Celebrate like a Scot 


Hogmanay’s about gathering friends and family for a few drams and food, but to guarantee a prosperous new year there are a few traditions to maintain.
When everyone had a fire in their home it was important to clear the ashes and build a new fire on New Year's Eve - burning juniper on it meant good luck. Clearing all outstanding debts before the clock strikes twelve, and getting your house neat and tidy are traditional too. Basically, make sure that you face the new year with a clean slate.
After the bells, we sing Robert Burn’s Auld Lang Syne and share drams of whisky (or whatever your tipple is) to toast the new year in. And its traditional to go around the houses first footing (visiting neighbours) to welcome in the new year.

First footing 


First footing is apparently another throwback from when the Viking’s invaded Scottish shores, back then a blonde man with an axe appearing at your door was a very bad omen! No wonder we Scots believe that the luckiest person to appear as your first footer is a tall, dark and handsome man. It’s important that your first footer isn’t in the house at midnight, and to bring good luck he must bear a gift!

Gifts at Hogmanay 


The conventional gift was a tasty fruit cake called a black bun. A lump of coal or a silver coin is said to bring good fortune. First footers traditionally bring a dram of whisky too. It’s all about friends starting the new year together.
Lump of coal not your thing? Here are some more modern suggestions.
Hogmanay Gillian Kyle collage

Onward 2017 


There have been huge ups and downs in 2016 around the world, but for me. I’ve loved getting back into my business, and learning how to juggle babies and work.
I’m all for a clean break with 2016, and will be starting next year feeling happy, grateful and positive about all the exciting opportunities and challenges there are in store in the coming year. I hope you'll be doing the same!
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