Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year. It’s an unusual word and the etymology is uncertain, but the first written record of it dates back to 1604.

Historically, in Scotland New Year was more important than Christmas, which people were discouraged (at times even banned) from celebrating. The new year therefore, was the main time for getting together with family and exchanging gifts.

There are many customs associated with Hogmanay. The most famous of these is one which has been adopted by much of the English-speaking world, and that is to link hands at midnight and sing Auld Lang Syne.

Another important tradition is “first footing”. The first person to cross your threshold after midnight is said to indicate your luck for the rest of the Year. Tall, dark men are preferred, probably dating back to the times of the Viking invasions when a blonde man knocking your door wouldn’t have been a sign of good things to come!

The first-footer should bring gifts of coal for the fire, shortbread and whisky to toast the new year.

Burns Night

Robert Burns was born on the 25th of January 1759. Five years after his death died his friends decided to commemorate his life with a special supper where they read some of his poetry and had a meal.

This tradition has continued until the present day and is still celebrated on 25th January. People dress up in tartan, and recite Burns poetry. The main part of Burns night celebration is the meal, which is usually haggis, tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips). During the evening, the haggis is brought into the room to the sound of bagpipes, and the host of the evening reads the poem “Address to a Haggis”, which was written by Burns. The haggis is then cut and shared between the guests along with the tatties and neeps.

The rest evening is a good excuse to drink whisky and have a sing song, including traditional Scottish songs such as Auld Lang Syne (also written by Burns)!