Traditions of Hogmanay
- Pay your debts before midnight.
- You may “redd up” the house and clear out the ashes in the hearth before midnight, but not before noon on New Year’s Day, because doing so would be to cast out your quota of good luck for the rest of the year.
- Sing Auld Lang Syne (an age-old song rescued published by Robert Burns in 1788)
- Make a toast to health, wealth and happiness in the coming year (with Scottish whiskey, of course).
- First Foot- The First Foot is the first person who crosses the threshold of the home after midnight on New Year’s Day (Christmas Day in some places). Traditionally, the First Foot must be a dark-haired male. In most places, blonds (reminiscent of Vikings and therefore trouble) and redheads signify bad luck. Females, particularly redheads, are considered to bring even worse luck. Depending on the region, the First Foot must bring a coin, a lump of coal, a piece of bread or shortbread, whiskey, salt and black bun—representing food, flavor, warmth, good cheer and financial prosperity in the new year. The First Foot should be an uninvited stranger. It was quite common for (dark-haired) young men to make the rounds of the households in their neighborhood to ensure good luck—and ensure a good time by being invited to drink toasts with the families of all the homes they first-footed.
- Saining – Saining a household involves blessing the house and the cattle with “holy water” from a nearby stream, after which, the woman of the household walks through the house with a smoking juniper branch to purify it from the taint of evil spirits. Of course, the smoke would get everyone coughing and require a dram or two of whisky to aid in recovery.
- People dressing up in hides of cattle and going around being hit by sticks
- Sticks (known as Hogmanays) covered with animal hide and used to ward off evil spirits
- Rolling tar barrels down a hill, lighting bonfires, tossing torches.
Modern Hogmanay Celebrations
In Stonehaven (a coastal city south of Aberdeen), giant fireballs (representing the sun) on five-foot poles are carried by 60 men as they march up and down the street to frighten off evil spirits.
Traditional Hogmanay Foods
- black bun (pastry with a filling of fruitcake)
- venison pie
- rumbledethumps (vegetable fry-up)
- haggis (the national dish of Scotland)
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