A Guide to Hogmanay Traditions

19th November

Revellers flock from far and wide to enjoy a world-famous Scottish Hogmanay in Edinburgh, but how many iconic Hogmanay traditions are you familiar with?

First-Footing

First-Footing is perhaps the most famous of Hogmanay traditions, harking back to Viking times. The first-footer is the first person to cross into your home after the clock strikes midnight at New Year and is seen as the bringer of good fortune for the coming year. Tradition says that to ensure good vibes for the rest of the year your first-footer should be a dark-haired male (as fair-haired footers weren’t particularly popular after the Viking invasion!), but nowadays good-hearted family and friends will suffice.

Saining

Perhaps a less practiced tradition nowadays, Saining is the practice of blessing your house and livestock for the New Year. If you fancy having a go, all you need to do is spread magical water from a river that’s been crossed by both the living and the dead, THEN burn juniper branches throughout your house, before wafting in the fresh New Year air. Yeah, good luck with that one.

Fire Ceremonies

Fire plays a huge part in traditional Hogmanay customs. For example, our annual Torchlight Procession sees thousands of revellers take to the streets with blazing torches, or, in Stonehaven, people parade through the streets swinging balls of fire over their heads. These Scottish fire ceremonies go way back to before Christianity, with some saying the fireballs signify the sun and that they purify the world by warding off evil spirits!

Having a Massive Party

Scotland’s world-famous and raucous New Year Celebrations stem from the fact that Christmas in Scotland was banned after the Reformation in 1640. And so, Hogmanay became the biggest celebration of the year! To this day 75,000 people take to the streets of Edinburgh for our epic 6-hour Street Party.

Ceilidh Dancing

Traditionally, the word ceilidh means simply ‘gathering’ or ‘party’ and was historically another term for a social gathering in a community space, which often featured music, dancing and storytelling. Rooted in togetherness, these community events were particularly popular around Hogmanay. To this day you'll find traditional ceilidhs all over Scotland where people will gather and dance to traditional Scottish music. 

Loony Dook

A more recent tradition, the Loony Dook started in 1986 as a novel way to find a Hogmanay hangover cure. It’s now an absolute must-see for any visitor to Edinburgh over New Year, with up to a thousand people in ridiculous costumes throwing themselves into the freezing water of the Firth of Forth.

Redding the House

Is there a better feeling than welcoming in the New Year with your house and debts in order? Rather than a Spring clean, Scots have a New Year clean instead! Peace of heart, peace of mind.

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