[ˌhɔgməˈneː] — with the main stress on the last syllable) is the Scots
word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year
) in the Scottish manner. Its official date is 31 December
(Auld Year's Night). However this is normally only the start of a celebration which lasts through the night until the morning of Ne'erday
) or, in some cases, 2 January
which is a Scottish Bank Holiday
The roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice
among the Norse, as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic
New Year's celebration of Samhain
. In Europe
, winter solstice evolved into the ancient celebration of Saturnalia
, a great Roman
winter festival, where people celebrated completely free of restraint and inhibition. The Vikings
, which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas
, or the "Daft Days" as they were sometimes called in Scotland. The winter festival went underground with the Protestant Reformation
and ensuing years, but re-emerged near the end of the 17th century.
There are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of 'first-footing
' which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt
(less common today), coal
, and black bun
(a rich fruit cake
) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day (although modern days see people visiting houses until 3 January
). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year, so it is important that a suitable person does the job. A tall, handsome, and dark-haired man bearing a gift is strongly preferred. According to popular folklore, a man with dark hair was welcomed because he was assumed to be a fellow Scotsman; a blond or red-haired stranger was assumed to be an unwelcome Norseman
Each area of Scotland often developed its own particular Hogmanay ritual.
An example of a local Hogmanay custom is the fireball swinging that takes place in Stonehaven, Kincardineshire in north-east Scotland. This involves local people making up 'balls' of chicken wire and tar, paper, and other flammable material up to a diameter of 61 cm. Each ball has 2 m of wire, chain or nonflammable rope attached. As the Old Town House bell sounds to mark the new year, the swingers set off up the High Street from the Mercat Cross to the Cannon and back, swinging their burning ball around their head as they go for as many times as they and their fireball last. At the end of the ceremony any fireballs that are still burning are cast into the harbour. Many people enjoy this display, which is more impressive in the dark than it would be during the day. As a result large crowds flock to the town to see it, with 12,000 attending the 2007/2008 event. In recent years, additional attractions have been added to entertain the crowds as they wait for midnight, such as fire poi, a pipe band, street drumming and a firework display after the last fireball is cast into the sea.
Another example of a pagan fire festival is the the burning of the clavie which takes place in the town of Burghead in Moray.
In the east coast fishing communities and Dundee, first-footers used to carry a decorated herring while in Falkland in Fife, local men would go in torchlight procession to the top of the Lomond Hills as midnight approached. Bakers in St Andrews would bake special cakes for their Hogmanay celebration (known as 'Cake Day') and distribute them to local children.
In Glasgow and the central areas of Scotland, the tradition is to hold Hogmanay parties involving singing, dancing, the eating of steak pie or stew, storytelling and consumption of copious amounts of alcohol, which usually extend into the daylight hours of January 1.
Institutions also had their own traditions. For example, amongst the Scottish regiments, the officers had to wait on the men at special dinners while at the bells, the Old Year is piped out of barrack gates. The sentry then challenges the new escort outside the gates: 'Who goes there?' The answer is 'The New Year, all's well.'
An old custom in the Highlands, which has survived to a small extent and seen some degree of revival, is to celebrate Hogmanay with the saining (Scots for 'protecting, blessing) of the household and livestock. This was done early on New Year's morning with copious, choking clouds of smoke from burning juniper branches, and by drinking and then sprinkling 'magic water' from 'a dead and living ford' around the house ('a dead and living ford' refers to a river ford which is routinely crossed by both the living and the dead). After the sprinkling of the water in every room, on the beds and all the inhabitants, the house was sealed up tight and the burning juniper carried through the house and byre. The smoke was allowed to thoroughly fumigate the buildings until it caused sneezing and coughing among the inhabitants. Then all the doors and windows were flung open to let in the cold, fresh air of the new year. The woman of the house then administered 'a restorative' from the whisky bottle, and the household sat down to their New Year breakfast.
Auld Lang Syne
The Hogmanay custom of singing Auld Lang Syne
has become common in many countries. Auld Lang Syne
is a traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert Burns
, which was later set to music. It is now common for this to be sung in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day, although in Scotland the traditional practice is to cross arms only for the last verse.
The Presbyterian Church generally disapproved of Hogmanay. The following quote is one of the first mentions of the holiday in official church records:
'It is ordinary among some plebeians in the South of Scotland to go about from door to door upon New-years Eve, crying Hagmane.'
Until the 1960s, Hogmanay and Ne'erday (a contraction of 'New Year's Day' in Scots dialect, according to the OED) in Scotland took the place of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the rest of the UK. Although Christmas Day held its normal religious nature, the Presbyterian national church, the Church of Scotland, had discouraged its celebration for over 400 years. As a result Christmas Day was a normal working day in Scotland until the 1960s and even into the 1970s in some areas. The gift-giving, public holidays and feasting associated with mid-winter were held between the 31 December and 2 January rather than between 24 December and 26 December.
With the fading of the Church's influence and the introduction of English cultural values via television and immigration, the transition to Christmas feasting was well-nigh complete by the 1980s. However, 1 January and 2 January remain public holidays in Scotland, despite the addition of Christmas Day and Boxing Day to the public holiday list, and Hogmanay still is associated with as much celebration as Christmas in Scotland. Most Scots still celebrate Ne'erday with a special dinner, usually steak pie.
When Ne'erday falls on a Sunday, 3 January
becomes an additional public holiday in Scotland; when Ne'erday falls on a Saturday, both 3 January
and 4 January
will be public holidays in Scotland; when Ne'erday falls on a Friday, 4 January
becomes an additional public holiday in Scotland.
As in the rest of the world, the four largest Scottish cities, Glasgow
, and Dundee
, hold all-night celebrations, as does Stirling
. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations are among the largest in the world, although in 2003-4 most of the organised events were cancelled at short notice due to very high winds. The Stonehaven Fireballs went ahead as planned, however, with 6000 hardy souls braving the weather to watch 42 fireball swingers process along the High Street. Similarly, the 2006-07 celebrations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling were all cancelled on the day, again due to high winds and heavy rain. The Aberdeen celebration, however, went ahead, and was coincidently opened by the pop music group, Wet Wet Wet
Historically, presents were given in Scotland on the first Monday of the New Year. This would be celebrated often by the employer giving his staff presents and parents giving children presents. A roast dinner would be eaten to celebrate the festival. Handsel was a word for gift box and hence Handsel Day
. In modern Scotland this practice has died out.
of the word is obscure. It may have been introduced to Middle Scots
through the Auld Alliance
. In 1604 the custom was mentioned in the Elgin
Records as hagmonay
. The most satisfactory explanation is a derivation from the Northern French dialect word hoguinané
, or variants such as hoginane
. Those being derived from 16th century Old French aguillanneuf
which is either a gift given at New Year, a children's cry for such a gift or New Year's Eve itself. The second element would appear to be l'an neuf
i.e. the New Year. Compare those to Norman hoguinané
and the obsolete customs in Jersey
of crying ma hodgîngnole
, and in Guernsey
of asking for an oguinane
, for a New Year gift.
Other suggestions include:
- Scottish Gaelic Og-Mhadainn/h' og maidne ('new morning')
- The Gaelic expression "theacht mean oiche" ('the arrival of midnight', pronounced 'heacht meawn eehe')
- Gaelic ochd meadhan oidhche ('eighth midnight' (eighth night from Christmas))
- Old English haleg monaþ ('Holy Month')
- Manx word Hop-tu-Naa (31st October) - the Old Gaelic new year.
- French au gui mener ('lead to the mistletoe'), au gui l'an neuf ('to the mistletoe the new year'), (l')homme est né ('(the) man is born')
- Dutch hoog min dag ('day of great love')
- Greek αγια μηνη ('holy month')
- Spanish aguinaldo ('Christmas gift')
John Brand's Popular Antiquities (1859) describes a custom in Kent of 'going a hodening' at Christmas, going round the houses in procession and singing carols, accompanied by a sort of hobby-horse. (See Wassail)
- Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, Brand, London, 1859
- Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernesiais, de Garis, Chichester, 1982
- Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français, Le Maistre, Jersey, 1966
- 1692 Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, Edinburgh
- Dictionary of the Scots Language, Edinburgh