A Guide to Celebrating Hogmanay

Eloise MadiganSource

Hello my wonderful readers,

For many years, the Scots were not allowed to celebrate Christmas. And what did they celebrate instead? New Year’s Eve!

They called it Hogmanay, but it’s exactly the same. They have a bunch of traditions that modern Scots still retain. Shall we see some of them? 😀


This happens in many countries, actually. This is actually an old Viking tradition; it said that the first person to set foot after the clock strikes midnight, is set to bring you fortune and luck the rest of the year. 

In the past, it was preferred that the first-footer was a dark-haired male (since fair-haired folks were not quite favored after the Viking invasion), but these days, a good-natured family member or friend will suffice. 

Do you think first-footers are important? 

Traditional Scottish Food. Image Source. 


Might not be an easy task to do, this one. Saining is the practice of blessing your house, and warding off the evil spirits. If you want to do that, you have to gather magical water from a river that has been crossed by both the living and the dead (how would they know if a dead person had crossed it?!), then burn juniper branches throughout the house. 

Suffice to say, it’s not practiced a lot these days. 

Fireball Swinging in Stonehaven. Image source.

Fire Ceremonies

Fire plays a big role in Scotland, especially in traditional Hogmanay customs. There are a lot of fire festivals throughout Scotland on this day. For example, there is fireball swinging in Stonehaven – no it’s not as dangerous as it sounds! 😛 The fireballs are packed in wire cages and attached to strong, five-foot-long wire ropes. The ceremony dates back to a fisherman’s festival in the 19th century. 

There is also carrying torches through Edinburgh. Thousands of people take to the streets holding torches, carrying them through the old town. Both these ceremonies date back to way before Christianity, and it’s even said that the fireballs represented the sun! 

Redding the house

You can say a lot about the Scots, but you can’t say that they are not clean. Rather than a Spring Clean, the Scots have a New Years Eve Clean, to welcome the New Year. Starting the New Year with a dirty house is bad luck. When open fires were common, people would clear the ashes and lay a new fire for the New Year. Cleaning one’s house also extends to clearing one’s debts. Peace of heart, peace of mind. 

Do you do any of these traditions, my dear? Or would you like to start one of these?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time…

Written by Eloise Madigan


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