New Year in Scotland is known as Hogmanay and boasts a variety of traditions, some of which may not be known about outside Scotland’s borders.
As well as concerts, street parties, fireworks and the odd dram of whisky, there are a number of traditions associated with Hogmanay some dating back centuries. At CLC Duchally Country Estate, dinner guests are piped into the dining room to enjoy a 5 course meal including traditional dishes with a modern twist, such as haggis bon bons and smoked salmon blinis.
But many traditions are based around the household as well as the community. Here are 5 that are still common in many Scottish households and regions.
Once the clock has struck midnight, it is traditional for neighbours to visit each bearing gifts such as shortbread and cake. In return you’re offered a whisky (or maybe two!).
The first person who enters the house is known as the first foot and is thought to bring good luck. A tall, handsome dark man is the luckiest of all, while a red headed woman is the unluckiest.
The pagan or Viking heritage of fire festivals at Hogmanay symbolises purification and the driving away of evil spirits. Fire is at the centre of many Hogmanay celebrations such as Stonehaven´s Fireballs ceremony and the Biggar bonfire.
Redding the House
Some of us spring clean, in Scotland there is a traditional cleanup ready for the New Year, known as Redding. A clean and tidy house is said to welcome the good spirits, with special attention given to the fireplaces. The swept out ashes can be read to see what lies in the year ahead.
The Bells and Auld Lang Syne
With the first chime of bells signifying the New Year, people join hands and sing Robbie Burn’s poem, Auld Lang Syne. Burns claimed that it was an ancient song and that he was merely the first to put it on paper. Whatever its origins it is popular the world over, though many people can be heard to mumble the verse only breaking into song with the chorus!
The Saining of the House
This tradition nearly died out but has undergone a revival of late. On New Year’s morning, houses and livestock are blessed with water from a local stream, followed by the lady of the house walking from room to room with a smouldering juniper branch. Once the smoke has caused the inhabitants to cough and sneeze, the windows are flung open and a “restorative” in the form of a drop of whisky is administered, followed by a hearty breakfast.
Hogmanay remains a greater and more traditional festivity than Christmas as a result of the Puritan banning of the latter in the 16th and 17th centuries. You can be sure that wherever you visit in Scotland, Hogmanay will be a night to remember.