Hogmanay 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.
Nobody knows for sure where the word ‘Hogmanay’ came from. It may have originated from Gaelic or from Norman-French.
Historically, Christmas was not observed as a festival and Hogmanay was the more traditional celebration in Scotland. The winter solstice holiday tended to be at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children.
‘The Bells’ is the phrase used to describe the midnight hour when New Year’s Eve becomes New Year’s Day.
Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is sung to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight, not just in Scotland but in many English-speaking countries.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as one of the most frequently sung songs in English. The song is sung or played in many movies, from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to ‘When Harry Met Sally.’
To sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ a circle is created and hands are joined with the person on each side of you. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbour on the left and vice versa. When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands.
An important element of Hogmanay celebrations is to welcome friends and strangers, with warm hospitality and of course a kiss to wish everyone a ‘Guid New Year’. The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.
‘First Footing’ – the ‘first foot’ in the house after midnight is still very common is Scotland. To ensure good luck, a first footer should be a dark-haired male. Fair-haired first footers were not particularly welcome after the Viking invasions of ancient times.
Traditional gifts include a lump of coal to lovingly place on the host’s fire, along with shortbread, a black bun and whisky to toast to a Happy New Year.
To first foot a household empty-handed is considered grossly discourteous, never mind unlucky!