Hog-ma-what? It’s not a word you will often hear in the vocabulary of most Americans. Hogmanay is actually a Scots word for the last day of the year, and is interchangeably used to describe the Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration. The largest and most famous celebration is that of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival held in the capital city, with three days of ongoing events.
As the lady in the Witchery Shop explained the origins of the holiday to us, she mentioned that Hogmanay is an even bigger celebration in Scotland than that of Christmas. It is tradition to give your house a good top to bottom cleaning to start the New Year, and to have friends and family over, with special attention paid to the first-footer, or the first person to enter the home after the clock has struck midnight. This first-footer should come with a symbolic gift in order to bring luck to the householder, and should preferably be dark and male.
As the complete opposite of that, we decided to stick to the city’s street festival and celebration!
The celebrations start with a torchlight procession the day prior to New Year’s Eve. This serves as the opening event to the Hogmanay celebrations, where anyone can participate by carrying a torch throughout the windy streets of the city, culminating in a festive fireworks display.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated as a huge street party throughout the streets of Edinburgh, with several stages scattered throughout, as live bands and musicians hold concerts and bring in the New Year. My friends and I decided to forego the crowd of youths rocking out at the concert in the gardens to participate in the traditional dance and music of the Old Town Ceilidh.
At the stroke of midnight, a spectacular display of fireworks shoots into the sky with the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle and city behind it, as party goers begin a chorus of Old Lang Syne. The street party shortly shuts down thereafter and the crowds pour into numerous bars, pubs, and clubs to continue celebrating until dawn.
Come New Years Day, for those nursing a particularly harsh hangover, the possibility exists to participate in the Loony Dook, or refreshing dip in the freezing River Forth. Or if hypothermia isn’t your thing, you can always participate in a journey across Edinburgh’s Old Town, exploring the numerous venues putting on the best in music, art, and theatre.
Celebrating Hogmanay in Edinburgh was an amazing experience and a once in lifetime opportunity. This festival is famous worldwide and takes advance planning, but if you contact us we’ll take the stress out of planning and help get you there for 2017!