Thursday, February 09, 2006

Scottish Culture Part 2: Hogmanay

Hogmanay with the main stress on the last syllable - hog-muh-NAY is the most important date in the Scottish calendar, even more important than Christmas because it is older than Christmas.

The etymology is unknown but h' og maidne ("new morning") is Scottish Gaelic so that is a possibilty. We also like to say it comes from ‘hugging many’ because the Scots are a very friendly and warm people. :-)

The root of the celebration comes from pagan celebrations, and 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, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a fruit pudding) intended to bring diff! erent kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day. 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 blonde or red haired stranger was assumed to be an unwelcome Norseman
source Wikipedia

Personally speaking we give presents at Hogmanay. We give gifts at Christmas too but also at Hogmanay. In fact my husband’s family remember only starting to get Christmas presents in the 1960’s. Before that it was only at Hogmanay. This and our other traditions such as first footing are only typical in Scotland although New Year is also welcomed merrily in England and Wales with parties and alcohol.

We also sing Auld Lang Syne (a traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert Burns which was later set to music). It means ‘“old long since” and basically means 'about the past'.

The capital city’s celebration: Edinburgh has the largest Hogmanay celebration in Scotland and the world (well, this depends on your interpretation of Hogmanay and New Year not being exactly the same as there are many many bigger cities and New Year celebrations than Edinburgh's - We're only a small country).

Another great source of information is here:

Next post: Up Helly Ah


Blogger Berta said...

Hi Kat,
I see that your blog keeps growing!!!
Thanks for sharing this special tradition of Hogmanay with us. I have been to England but have never been to Scotland. Well, maybe one day ...
Gladys advised me to activate the word verification function to avoid spam. Go to dashboard, setting, comments, click yes in word verification, click save settings,and you´re set. ;-)

7:25 PM  
Blogger Chrissan said...

Hi Kat,
Your blog is going to be a very valuable source for information for me, thank you very much! I'm embarrasingly lacking in knowledge of the Scottish culture, but your blog will soon end that!!!!!

BaWers rule!

11:52 AM  
Blogger Valeria said...

It was so thrilling for my students and me to look at all your pictures and read the detailed informaton about Scottish traditions. I just hope you keep this blog for a long time so that I can bring my students here every year when we talk about your country. Thanks.

3:53 PM  

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