Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Executive summary by darmansjah

Hogmanay  is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. However, it is normally only the start of a celebration that lasts through the night until the morning of New Year's Day (1 January) or, in some cases, 2 January—a Scottish Bank Holiday.

Local customs

Areas of Scotland often developed their own Hogmanay rituals.

An example of a local Hogmanay custom is the fireball swinging that takes place in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire in north-east Scotland. This involves local people making up 'balls' of chicken wire filled with old newspaper, sticks, rags, and other dry flammable material up to a diameter of 2 feet (0.61 m), each attached to about 3 feet (0.91 m) of wire, chain or nonflammable rope. As the Old Town House bell sounds to mark the new year, the balls are set alight and the swingers set off up the High Street from the Mercat Cross to the Cannon and back, swinging the burning balls around their heads as they go. At the end of the ceremony, any fireballs that are still burning are cast into the harbour. Many people enjoy this display, and large crowds flock 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. The festivities are now streamed live over the Internet.Another example of a pagan fire festival is the burning the clavie in the town of Burghead in Moray.

In the east coast fishing communities and Dundee, first-footers once carried a decorated herring while in Falkland in Fife, local men marched in torchlight procession to the top of the Lomond Hills as midnight approached. Bakers in St Andrews baked special cakes for their Hogmanay celebration (known as 'Cake Day') and distributed them to local children.

In Glasgow and the central areas of Scotland, the tradition is to hold Hogmanay parties that involve singing, dancing, eating of steak pie or stew, storytelling and drink. These usually extend into the daylight hours of 1 January.

Institutions also had their own traditions. For example, amongst the Scottish regiments, officers waited 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. Early on New Year's morning, householders drink and then sprinkle 'magic water' from 'a dead and living ford' around the house (a 'dead and living ford' refers to a river ford that 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 is sealed up tight and branches of juniper are set on fire and carried throughout the house and byre. The juniper smoke is allowed to thoroughly fumigate the buildings until it causes sneezing and coughing among the inhabitants. Then all the doors and windows are flung open to let in the cold, fresh air of the new year. The woman of the house then administers 'a restorative' from the whisky bottle, and the household sits down to its 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 to sing this in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day, though it is only intended that participants link arms at the beginning of the final verse, co-ordinating with the lines of the song that contain the lyrics to do so. Typically, it is only in Scotland this practice is carried out correctly.

Auld Lang Syne is now sung regularly at "The Last Night of the Proms" in London by the full audience with their arms crossed over one another.

Between 1957 and 1968 a New Year's Eve television programme, called "The White Heather Club", was presented to herald in the Hogmanay celebrations.

The show was presented by Andy Stewart who always began by singing "Come in, come in, it's nice to see you...." The show always ended with Andy Stewart and the cast singing, "Haste ye Back":

    Haste ye back, we loue you dearly,
    Call again you're welcome here.
    May your days be free from sorrow,
    And your friends be ever near.

    May the paths o'er which you wander,
    Be to you a joy each day.
    Haste ye back we loue you dearly,
    Haste ye back on friendship's way.

The performers were Jimmy Shand and band, Ian Powrie and his band, Scottish country dancers: Dixie Ingram and the Dixie Ingram Dancers, Joe Gordon Folk Four, James Urquhart, Ann & Laura Brand, Moira Anderson & Kenneth McKellar. All the male dancers and Andy Stewart wore kilts, and the female dancers wore long white dresses with tartan sashes.

Following the demise of the White Heather Club, Andy Stewart continued to feature regularly in TV Hogmanay shows until his retirement. His last appearance was in 1992.

In the 1980s comedian Andy Cameron presented the Hogmanay show on BBC Scotland while Peter Morrison presented a show called "A Highland Hogmanay" on STV/Grampian. This was axed in 1993.

For many years, a staple of New Year's Eve television programming in Scotland was the comedy sketch show Scotch and Wry featuring the comedian Rikki Fulton, which invariably included a hilarious monologue from him as the preternaturally gloomy Reverend I.M. Jolly.

Since 1993, the programmes that have been mainstays on BBC Scotland on Hogmanay have been Hogmanay Live and Jonathan Watson's football-themed sketch comedy show, Only an Excuse?
Presbyterian influence

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.

(This was of general disapproval of Hogmanay). Still in Scotland Hogmanay and New Year's Day are as or more important than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the rest of the UK.

Although Christmas Day held its normal religious nature in Scotland amongst its Catholic and Episcopalian communities, the Presbyterian national church, the Church of Scotland, had discouraged the celebration of Christmas for over 400 years. However, 1 and 2 January remain public holidays in Scotland and Hogmanay still is associated with as much celebration as Christmas in Scotland. Most Scots still celebrate New Year's Day with a special dinner, usually steak pie.

New Year's Day

A Viking longship is burnt during Edinburgh's annual Hogmanay celebrations (though Edinburgh has no historical connection with those Norse who invaded Scotland).

When New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, 3 January becomes an additional public holiday in Scotland; when New Year's Day falls on a Saturday, both 3 and 4 January will be public holidays in Scotland; when New Year's Day falls on a Friday, 4 January becomes an additional public holiday in Scotland.

Major celebrations

As in much of the world, the largest Scottish cities, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen hold all-night celebrations, as do Stirling and Inverness. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations are among the largest in the world. Celebrations in Edinburgh in 1996-97 were recognised by the Guinness Book of Records at the world's largest New Year party, with approx. 400,000 people in attendance. Numbers have since been restricted due to safety concerns.

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 some 6000 people braving the stormy weather to watch 42 fireball swingers process along the High Street.[28] Similarly, the 2006-07 celebrations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling were all cancelled on the day, again due to high winds and heavy rain.[29] The Aberdeen celebration, however, went ahead, and was opened by the pop music group, Wet Wet Wet.

Handsel Day

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. Handsel Day is marked by teachers giving gifts to their students.[citation needed] 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.

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