Happy Hog­manay!

Dis­cover the ori­gins of Scot­land’s favourite time of year

The Scots Magazine - - Focus On… Aberdeenshire - By KA­T­RINA PATRICK

LET’S face it – no one throws a bet­ter Hog­manay party than the Scots. Our New Year cel­e­bra­tions are revered around the world, an­nu­ally draw­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of rev­ellers. In fact, we hold the Guin­ness World Record for the largest New Year’s Eve party – around 400,000 peo­ple at­tended the 1996/97 cel­e­bra­tions in Ed­in­burgh.

It’s a long-stand­ing joke that the cel­e­bra­tions are so big that Scot­land, un­like the rest of the UK, gets an ex­tra Bank Hol­i­day to re­cover on Jan­uary 2. In­deed, the Scots have had New Year’s Day off since Bank Hol­i­days were first reg­is­tered in 1871, which is quite re­mark­able con­sid­er­ing that Christ­mas Day didn’t be­come a pub­lic hol­i­day in Scot­land un­til 1958!

What is it about bring­ing in the New Year that at­tracts so much mer­ri­ment in this coun­try – even more so than Christ­mas Day?

A lot of this has to do with the fact that Christ­mas it­self was banned Scot­land-wide for hun­dreds of years.

The pop­u­lar­ity of Christ­mas had risen with Catholi­cism, adapt­ing na­tive pa­gan cel­e­bra­tions of the Win­ter Sol­stice.

Af­ter the Protes­tant ref­or­ma­tion in 1560, re­form­ers were keen to sup­press any cel­e­bra­tions as­so­ci­ated with the Catholic Church, in­clud­ing Christ­mas – or “Christ’s Mass”.

In 1640, the Par­lia­ment of Scot­land’s Yule Va­cance Act abol­ished the “Yule va­ca­tion and all ob­ser­va­tion thereof in time com­ing” – of­fi­cially can­celling Christ­mas for the en­tire na­tion.

Hog­manay cel­e­bra­tions – or vari­ants thereof – on the other hand had been cel­e­brated in Scot­land long be­fore Catholi­cism. Hav­ing no re­li­gious ties, the cel­e­bra­tions were safe from ref­or­ma­tion. bring­ing in the New Year be­came the fo­cal point for mer­ri­ment in long win­ter months.

The ori­gins of Hog­manay have long been de­bated. The gen­eral con­sen­sus is that it’s an amal­ga­ma­tion of Norse, Gaelic and French tra­di­tions, and you can see these in­flu­ences in cel­e­bra­tions across Scot­land to­day.

In­vad­ing Vik­ings marked the win­ter sol­stice with fire and rev­elry – giv­ing us bon­fires, the Stone­haven Fire­balls and the later Up Helly Aa in Shet­land.

The word Hog­manay it­self may well come from the French hogu­inané, which means a gift given at New Year. This would cer­tainly ex­plain our Hog­manay tra­di­tion of First Foot­ing, where the first foot through your door in the New Year should bring a gift.

No mat­ter the ori­gins, even now – long af­ter Christ­mas was recog­nised and pub­licly cel­e­brated – Hog­manay is still the loud­est cel­e­bra­tion on the Scot­tish cal­en­dar.

This year is no ex­cep­tion, and the loud­est of all the fes­ti­vals is Ed­in­burgh’s Hog­manay 2019. This three-night ex­trav­a­ganza of events in­cludes a Can­dlelit Con­cert in St Giles’ Cathe­dral, torch­lit pro­ces­sion, Con­cert in the Gar­dens head­lined by Franz Fer­di­nand, Ceilidh Un­der The Cas­tle, ex­ten­sive fire­works dis­play and, of course, the fa­mous out­door street party.

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