Customs and Traditions of Hogmanay

There’s no place like Scotland to celebrate Hogmanay – New Year’s Eve.

It’s the biggest night of the year for a lot of Scots and people come from all over the world to bring in the New Year and celebrate Hogmanay in our beautiful country.

We’re sure you have heard of the street parties and have maybe even visited but are you aware of the ancient traditions and customs that were and still are followed throughout the country on 31 December?

Let us share some of them with you.

Getting New Year Ready

Tradition says before you can celebrate the new year, you have to finish the previous one properly.
Cleaning your house from top to bottom has long been a New Year’s Eve ritual as well as clearing any debts.


Hogmanay First-Footing

First-footing is perhaps one of the most widely practiced and well known Hogmanay traits. At the strikes of midnight, Scottish folks head for the homes of their loved ones to be the first-footer.  A first footer is the first person to cross enter your home in the new year. Traditionally, the first-footer was a tall, dark, and handsome man who brought a lump of coal for your fire, shortbread, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. Today, anyone is welcome to first foot – as long as they don’t arrive empty handed.

Joining Hands and Singing Auld Lang Syne

When it turns to midnight on 31 December, Scotland will sing Auld Lang Syne.  The lyrics of this old folk song, written by Robert Burns, are about good friendships and how old times now passed not be forgotten. Adopted by many countries across the world, singers traditionally join hands to form a circle while they sing. During the last verse, arms are crossed over your own chest and linked again with the others in the circle.


Hogmanay Fires

Fire has always played a significant role in Hogmanay customs, and is thought to derive from the pagan traditions of the pre-Christian Celts. The annual Torchlight Procession in Edinburgh on 30 December pays homage to this history, with thousands marching through the city centre carrying blazing torches. In Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, kilted men construct vast fireballs of up to two feet wide, so that when midnight appears, they can swing them around their heads in a procession on the High Street. Any remaining fireballs at the end of the parade are set off into the harbour.