Hogmanay

Hogmanay and Whisky - New year Celebrations with real tradition

Hogmanay and Whisky

While New Year's Eve is celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event - and have their own name for it, Hogmanay

There are many theories about the derivation of the word "Hogmanay".

The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was "Hoggo-nott" while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) "hoog min dag" means "great love day".

Hogmanay could also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning.

But the most likely source seems to be the French. "Homme est né" or "Man is born" while in France the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged was "aguillaneuf" while in Normandy presents given at that time were "hoguignetes".

Take your pick!

For Hogmanay it's worth splashing the cash for something special to help celebrate midnight.

Go for a nice single-malt from somewhere like Islay or Jura, perhaps, but if you're planning to drink whisky through the night, opt for a good-quality blended whisky.

It may not be widely known but Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s.

The reason for this has its roots in the Protestant Reformation when the Kirk portrayed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast and therefore had to be banned.

Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children, which came to be called hogmanays.

There are traditions before midnight such as cleaning the house on 31st December (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common).

There is also the superstition to clear all your debts before "the bells" at midnight.

Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns' "For Auld Lang Syne". Burns claimed it was based on an earlier fragment and certainly the tune was in print over 80 years before he published his version in 1788.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, We'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne."

An integral part of the Hogmanay partying, which continues very much today, 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

"First footing" (that is, the "first foot" in the house after midnight) is still common in Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should be male, dark (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble) and should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky. These days, however, whisky and perhaps shortbread are the only items still prevalent (and available).

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