31 December – Hogmanay – New Year’s Eve!

Hogmanay is when Scotland becomes one huge party where everyone is related to everyone else, and everyone is welcome!

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is called Hogmanay, where the birth of the new year is welcomed with wassail and good wishes. It is a celebration that dates from pre-Christian times and is more important, even today, than Christmas.

The roots of Hogmanay reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain. The Vikings celebrated Yule, which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas or the Daft Days as they were sometimes called in Scotland.

The origin of the word hogmanay, is lost in time but scholars suggest that it most likely came from the French homme est né [man is born]. From other languages come these possibilities:

  • hoggo-nott [the feast preceding Yule] – Scandinavian
  • hoog min dag [great love day] – Flemish
  • haleg monath [holy month] – Anglo-Saxon
  • oge maiden [new morning] – Gaelic

As with all things Scottish, there is a lot of tradition designed to ensure good luck and involved in celebrating the end of the old and the beginning of the new year. What happened during Hogmanay was a portent of what the rest of the year would bring. This is why such importance was attached to the First Foot.

The First Foot is the first person to cross the threshold after the last stroke of midnight, embodying the spirit of someone bringing food and comfort to the house and good luck for the coming year. According to tradition, the best person to have come calling as a First Foot is a tall, dark haired man because fair-haired people were considered to be unlucky (were these the Norse invaders of old?). First Footing is the practice of going from house to house with little gifts and a bottle of whisky or wine. The host is given a token gift and a drink from your bottle and, in turn, gives you a drink from his.

The traditional handsel, or gift, brought by the First Foot is to ensure prosperity to the house being visited. To visit a house empty handed for the first time in the New Year signifies poverty will come upon the household. Each of the gifts a First Foot brings has a special meaning. A piece of coal, peat, or a small log symbolizes warmth, a coin symbolizes wealth, and whiskey symbolizes prosperity. An oatcake, piece of shortbread, or slice of black bun (a traditional spiced cake) symbolizes health.

Happy Hogmanay!


Here’s a wee freebie for your celebrations. Click on the image or click here to download it. Remember, it’s polite to send your friends here to get it rather than just share it around. How will they ever learn about Hogmanay?

Slainte! {Gaelic for Cheers!}

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing both the word art and the information.

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