26 December 2009


Why the Scots celebrate Hogmanay

From the late 17th century until the 1950's, the Kirk in Scotland, due to the Protestant Reformation, banned the festival of Christmas; dismissing it as nothing more than a Popish or Catholic Feast. During that time Scots were expected to carry on working as usual.  So they celebrated their winter solstice at the start of the New Year.  This was a time when family and friends gathered to party and exchange gifts, and was a special time for the children.

There are many accredited sources for the derivation of the word Hogmany.  In Scandinavian the word for the feast preceding Yule was "Hoggo-nott",  The Flemish "hoog min dag"  means "great love day".  The Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, is another candidate for the dervation of Hogmanay, meaning 'Holy Month'.  The French. "Homme est né" or "Man is born" heads the list of possible origins.  Wherever the true source lies, the Scots have learned to maximise the reinstatement of the Christams festivities in the last sixty years or so, running them into their traditional Hogmanay holiday.

These traditions include 'sweeping out the old to make way for the new'.  Housewifes would clean their home thoroughly on the last day of the year, including the ashes from every grate in the house.  Ever the 'Canny' Scott, all debts would be cleared before the midnight bells rang in the New Year.

First Footing is a long-held practice and promised good fortune and wealth to any holdhold who welcomed a dark-haired male as their first footer/visitor of theNew Year into their homes.  The symbolic First Footing Gifts of coal and salt have given way to whiskey and shortbread!

Why were dark haired visitors  welcomed and blonds feared?  It is believed to date back to the times of  the Viking Raiders, when a blond on your doorstep usually spelled trouble.

Today Hogmanay is still widely celebrated in Scotland.  Commonly firework displays and bonfires are enjoyed but other, older traditions still prevail, such as rolling blazing tar barrels down a hill and tossing torches. The smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.

Some original customs are still practiced in older communities such as the Outer Hebredes, Stonehaven, and many outlaying Scottish communities.

If you fancy experiencing Hogmany celebrations for yourself, a quick search online for Hogmany will reveal the many oportunies to fulfill your dream.

Happy New Year,  Happy Hogmanay.


StephB said...

Awesome. I love posts like this that explain a little about history. Thanks so much for sharing. Hogmany sounds like fun.

Sherry Gloag said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it Steph. Thanks for coming by.