It’s officially Yule and the winter solstice has come and gone, so what’s next? Christmas and Hogmanay!

The Auld Toun Blog explores Edinburgh’s stories and gives updates about our latest news.


Hogmanay is the Scots word for New Year and the celebrations related to it. It has historically been important, due to the ban of Christmas in 1647 and the influence of the Scottish Presbyterian Church in the past. Christmas day was just another working day in Scotland until 1958.

According to Scotland.org, the word Hogmanay could come from ‘old Norman French from hoguinan (a New Year’s gift), the Gaelic og maidne (new morning), the Flemish hoog min dag (day or love) or the Anglo Saxon haleg monath (holy month).’

These days, Hogmanay is a modern New Year’s celebration but there is a rich history of traditions and rituals. The most famous is Edinburgh’s celebrations, including a Torchlight Procession and a concert and fireworks in Princes Street Gardens.

Some of the more traditional aspects of Hogmanay are:

Redding the House
Start the new year with a throughly clean and tidy house, including sorting your debts and cleaning out the fireplace.

First Foot
The first person to enter your home after 12 is the first foot. They traditionally bring a gift that symbolises good luck, and food and drink for guests.

Auld Lang Syne
After the clock strikes 12, it is customary to sing Robbie Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Saining (Blessing) the House
This was an ancient tradition in the Highlands. According to wikipedia, ‘early on New Year’s morning, householders drink and then sprinkle ‘magic water’ from ‘a dead and living ford (river)‘ around the house. The house is sealed up tight and branches of juniper are set on fire and carried throughout the house. The juniper smoke is allowed to thoroughly fumigate the buildings until it causes sneezing and coughing. Then all the doors and windows are flung open to let in the cold, fresh air of the new year.’

It’s not just all about Edinburgh, there are amazing events all over Scotland, many involving fire:

  • In Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire there is the famous fireball swinging.
  • In Burghead, Moray there is the Burning of the Clavie (casks) (11th January).
  • In Shetland, there is the famous Up Helly Aa (29 January).
  • In Kirkwall, Orkney on Christmas and New Year’s Day, the Ba Game is played.

Wishing you a happy 2019!

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